Seoul hosts meeting of global health authorities

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Seoul hosts meeting of global health authorities

Nearly 500 health ministers and officials from international health organizations will gather at the InterContinental Seoul COEX in southern Seoul today for the second Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) High-Level Meeting.

The national Health and Welfare Ministry said the convention will be based on “multilateral efforts to build an international cooperation system where countries support and cooperate with one another for dealing with health security issues, with an aim of enhancing their own capabilities to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats,” at a time when health problems have been proven difficult to solve at a national level. It is slated to run through Wednesday.

As the host country, Korea is expected to share its experiences in responding to the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) earlier this year.

The Korean government announced on July 28 that the outbreak was at an end, saying the potentially fatal disease was completely contained after 69 days. The disease, which was brought to Korea by a 68-year-old man returning from a business trip to the Middle East in May, sickened 186 people and claimed 36 lives. The first case was confirmed on May 20; the last patient was reported on July 5.

The number of people quarantined at home or in a medical facility after coming into contact with MERS patients spiked to nearly 7,000 in June.

The three-day conference will provide a global platform to discuss strategies to promote cooperation between governmental and non-governmental actors on sharing a vision of global health security, according to the Health Ministry.

A joint statement called the Seoul Declaration will be announced as the result of the discussions, which will help encourage countries around the world not only to improve national prevention and control systems but also to work together to build an advanced health security system across the world, the ministry continued.

An open forum for the general public hosted by the Health Ministry and the Korea Foundation for International Healthcare will also kick off today. Panelists include Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States; Keiji Fukuda, assistant director general for health security at the World Health Organization; Brian Evans, assistant director general of the World Organization for Animal Health; and Peter Jan Graaff, the regional interagency Ebola crisis leader of the UN.

Launched in February 2014, the GHSA held its first high-level meeting in September of that year in the White House to discuss the spread of Ebola and ways to contain it.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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