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* U.S. government provides Sri Lanka with assistance to combat seasonal and pandemic influenza
Wed, Mar 24, 2010, 09:18 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 24, Colombo: The United States Government, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is partnering with the Ministry of Health Epidemiology Unit to enhance Sri Lanka's ability to monitor and track seasonal influenza, and prepare for, detect and respond to an influenza pandemic if it should occur.

Under the program, CDC will provide over Rs 34 million ($300,000) a year for up to four years to support surveillance, laboratory capacity and training, a press release form the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said.

Under the new cooperative agreement, the CDC chose to fund Sri Lanka along with six other countries new to the program, in addition to 33 countries already receiving funding for similar activities.

An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population. The most recent influenza pandemic, caused by the pandemic H1N1 virus, occurred over the course of the past year.

Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis and representatives from the CDC's Influenza Division recently met with Ministry of Health staff and officials to discuss the partnership.

"Sri Lanka has long had one of the best preparedness programs in place to counter pandemic influenza. I'm pleased the CDC chose Sri Lanka to participate in our Global Strategy and I'm equally pleased that the CDC team was impressed by what they saw and heard while in Sri Lanka," Ambassador Butenis said.

The CDC support will augment and expand several initiatives at the Health Ministry including the improvement of laboratory diagnostic capacity; the linkage of the Medical Research Institute with the Epidemiology Unit and regional influenza monitoring sites; and the training of regional epidemiologists, hospital infection control nursing officers, and laboratory technicians on influenza laboratory and epidemiological surveillance, the release said.

(U.S. Ambassador Butenis is in discussion with Sri Lankan health officials)

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