CDC picks isles as epidemic outpost
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will put Hawaii at the forefront of a disease war
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will establish a "forward base" to fight infectious diseases and other public health threats in Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye announced yesterday.
CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said the station will "strengthen emerging disease detection and response systems for the entire Asia-Pacific region, and Hawaii is uniquely situated for this purpose."
AT A GLANCE
What: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention field office in Hawaii
Purpose: To develop effective warning and response systems for public health threats
Who: The station will have at least two specialists, including an epidemiologist working on avian flu.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to establish a field station in Hawaii to develop a more effective warning and response system for public health threats, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye has announced.
"Dr. Julie Gerberding (CDC director) said the station will serve as a forward base to strengthen emerging disease detection and response systems for the entire Asia-Pacific region, and Hawaii is uniquely situated for this purpose," Inouye said yesterday in a news release.
Dr. Duane Gubler, director of the University of Hawaii's Asia-Pacific Institute for Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases, said he did not know of the decision until he saw the news release.
"I wasn't in the loop in discussions with the senator, so it caught me by surprise, but it's the kind of surprise you'd like to receive," he said. "I'm absolutely delighted."
Gubler and state Health Director Chiyome Fukino had talked to Gerberding two years ago at a conference here about the need for a greater CDC presence in Asia and the Pacific and a partnership in Hawaii to fight infectious diseases.
Two CDC officials were here last week talking to Department of Health, UH and other state officials about the idea.
"We definitely think this is the logical place to build this relationship," Michael Sage, CDC portfolio management director in Gerberding's office, said in an interview before returning to Atlanta.
Two specialists, one an epidemiologist concentrating on avian flu, are expected to be assigned to the station initially.
"This is really good," Fukino said. "I'm so glad they decided to do this because we recognize the value of the federal government having a presence in our small, tiny, little state in the middle of the ocean."
She said the CDC sends specialists to be part of the state government, "but this is unique. It is going to be a distinctly CDC office."
The CDC epidemiologist will collaborate with Gubler and Dr. Paul Effler, the epidemiologist who heads the Health Department's Disease Outbreak Control Division, she said.
"It will really enhance our ability for surveillance not only in the state, but in the Pacific area."
Gubler said the field office "is exactly what we proposed and what we had been planning on. The important thing it's a win-win-win -- a win for Hawaii definitely, a win for CDC because they can use our contacts and our expertise, and it's a win for the United States because it helps develop more effective disease detection systems."
He also added a fourth win for UH: "There is no downside to it. It's just terrific."
The station also will provide opportunities for CDC partnerships with the John A. Burns School of Medicine, Tripler Army Medical Center, Health Department and other medical and health organizations, Inouye said.
"While the funding and the location of the field station still need to be worked out, it is clear that the CDC is committed to expanding its Asia-Pacific focus with Hawaii having a key role," he said.
Inouye noted that the CDC established a small occupational health center at UH-Hilo at his request several years ago which has taken the lead in addressing public health implications of volcanic emissions and childhood asthma.