Halting infectious disease outbreaks at their points of origin is one of the best and most economical ways of saving lives and protecting U.S. citizens from pandemics or bio-terrorist attacks. The Office of International Health and Biodefense (IHB) monitors potential public health events of international concern and serves as policy advisor and incident manager for the State Department’s response to infectious disease outbreaks as part of a whole-of-government effort.
Working with U.S. Embassies, IHB mobilizes resources – expert, financial, and in-kind – from the U.S. government and international public and private sector partners to support host government-led preparedness and response efforts. IHB engages foreign governments to reduce barriers to effective humanitarian responses, make science-based decisions that prevent outbreak spread, and mitigate unproductive response measures that interfere with travel and trade. IHB engages the World Health Organization and international partners to improve governance, coordination, and accountability for managing health emergencies.
Effective outbreak response requires preparedness efforts that incorporate lessons learned from past outbreaks. IHB collaborates with the U.S. interagency to train U.S. and foreign officials and conduct outbreak response exercises. This includes developing protocols, agreements, and standard operating procedures to facilitate international deployment of U.S. government resources and personnel in future outbreaks. Preparedness is critical to responding to outbreaks quickly and stopping them at their source – before they become pandemics.