The theme and central focus of the 6th China-U.S. Relations Conference, to be held May 11-13, 2015 at Hotel ZaZa in Houston, Texas, will be: “Global Infectious Diseases: Prevention, Preparedness and Response.” The meeting’s main emphasis will be on the critical role both China and the United States play in the global effort to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emerging infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics around the globe.
Conference organizers have pointed out that in our current era of global connectivity, frequent intercontinental travel, and shared vulnerability, China and the United States must work collaboratively, pooling available academic, industrial, non-profit and governmental resources toward averting widespread human suffering and economic and social disruption as a result of epidemics or pandemics of infectious diseases such as Ebola virus, MERS, or influenza.
Principle goals for this 6th China-U.S. Relations Conference include provenance of a visible forum for exchanging information through interdisciplinary public dialogues and published proceedings of world-leading physicians, scientists, policymakers, government officials and business leaders.
Conference attendees will discuss how public health infrastructure can be organized for standby readiness to respond expeditiously to infectious disease flare-ups and breakouts through development of an integrated, resilient, global strategy that will require a synergy of environmental monitoring, disease detection, prevention, and medical response readiness. Such a strategy will be dependent upon development and deployment of state-of-the art medical health care technology, and on the education of highly skilled professionals in multiple health care and related fields.
In addition to plenary sessions featuring world leading physicians, scientists, policymakers, and government officials, the Conference will include scientific and policy roundtable forums focused on key scientific, technical, and policy challenges potentially inhibiting effective infectious disease prevention, preparedness and response both in China and the United States as well as in the developing world, and on developing specific action items for further multinational research, development, and implementation.
Under the “Global Infectious Diseases: Prevention, Preparedness and Response” theme, the Conference will bring together government officials, scholars, nonprofit representatives, entrepreneurs, and policy makers from China and the United States to examine and expand the critical role played by China and the United States in prevention, preparation for, and response to emerging infectious diseases and pandemics. The recent and current Ebola virus outbreak in Africa, and its direct impact on the United States, gives this Conference meeting an even more urgent context.
The case of U.S. Ebola Fever “patient zero,” Thomas Duncan, a Liberian visitor to the U.S. who was treated and ultimately died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, which resulted in two nurses becoming infected, revealed the hazard such aggressively contagious diseases pose, even in a major, big city hospital.
There is also the failure of the 2014-15 flu vaccine in providing robust protection against this year’s dominant H3N2 Type A virus. Getting a flu shot for this season only reduced the chance of an individual needing to seek medical help for influenza by a discouraging 19 percent, as opposed to approximately 60 percent or more in typical seasons past according to interim analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Compounding the situation is H3N2 strains being associated with more severe illness and greater mortality.
This year’s flu-associated hospitalization rate among people 65 and older reportedly the highest yet recorded over the 10 years since the CDC began tracking that data in 2005, underscores the gravity of the vaccine’s misformulation, which was largely due to an unanticipated mutation drift in the H3N2 virus that was first detected during routine surveillance testing in late March 2014 — after World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for the 2014-2015 Northern Hemisphere vaccine composition had been finalized in mid-February, 2014.
Exploring what potential exists for more accurately predicting a season’s dominant flu strain(s) through greater international cooperation and resource allocation would be an especially topical subject for address at the George H.W. Bush China-U.S. conference, as would the ongoing mutation and spread of avian flu strains that typically originate in China and other parts of southeast Asia, particularly in live animal markets where poultry are kept packed in dense living conditions so that when a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus is introduced mortality is high and entire poultry populations can be rapidly wiped out. Or mass-euthanized such as is currently ongoing with an avian flu flare-up in Canada.
Last week delivering the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s School of Public Health’s 23rd Annual James H Steele Lecture, “Expecting the Unexpected with Influenza,” Dr. Nancy J. Cox, PhD, former director of the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC’s World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Control of Influenza spoke about evaluating influenza surveillance data, which she believes is the key point when addressing a zoonotic disease problem, as well as the need to be able to coordinate intelligence and data from as many different global partners and organizations as possible. Dr. Cox cited as a prime example the WHO’s Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), which meticulously monitors genetic changes that occur in viruses with the aim to accurately assess pandemic risk.
Texas A&M Health Science Center is also playing a major role in preparing the U.S. for a possible influenza outbreak through a $285.6 million public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and collaborating academic, commercial and State of Texas stakeholders to develop and manufacture GSK’s next generation of influenza vaccines to counter potential global pandemics. The flu vaccine manufacturing facility will serve as the anchor of the Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) at Bryan-College Station, and will give the U.S. the capability to mass-produce vaccines for the flu in the event of a national emergency. TAMHSC continues to work closely with Federal funding sources such as BARDA, which awarded the Texas A&M CIADM contract and two others for vaccine-related centers in collaboration Novartis, and the Maryland firm Emergent BioSciences, to develop and manufacture medical countermeasures, including flu vaccines.
With Texas serving as the theatre for the first major Ebola scare in the U.S., a punishing flu season that underscored the need for increased preparedness and community education, and the ongoing efforts in both the Texas life sciences research community and biotech sector, this year’s China-U.S. Relations Conference is not only well-themed for the pressing need that confronts the world today concerning outbreaks and pandemics, but is also well-placed in terms of location. While the world is pulling together to meet this public challenges, Texas continues to make substantial contributions to the effort to stamp out Tropical diseases, Ebola, influenza, and other major threats to world health.
Online registration for the 6th China-U.S. Relations Conference will be available until 5:00 pm (CST), May 1, 2015 or until capacity is reached. The standard registration rate is $695.
To register for this conference, use the online registration form.