Obama ad­min sends top dis­ease spe­cial­ists

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

HA­VANA, (AP): HE OBAMA ad­min­is­tra­tion sent some of the United States’ top in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ists to Cuba yes­ter­day to open a new phase in med­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion af­ter more than a half-cen­tury of iso­la­tion.

Two dozen US and Cuban ex­perts on trop­i­cal dis­eases opened three days of meet­ings about each coun­try’s re­search into in­sect-borne dis­eases such

Tas dengue, chikun­gunya and Zika. US Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Sylvia Bur­well was to fly to Cuba to­day to at­tend.

The visit is part of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s push to build ir­re­versible mo­men­tum be­hind his de­tente with Cuba in the fi­nal months of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has is­sued six sets of reg­u­la­tions loos­en­ing the 55-year-old US trade em­bargo on Cuba, but the ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions could be re­versed by a fu­ture ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton, who leads in polls three weeks be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, has promised to con­tinue nor­mal­i­sa­tion. Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump has pledged to roll back Obama’s pol­icy.

MORE VIS­ITS PLANNED

Obama vis­ited in March. US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man vis­ited this month, as did Dr Jill Bi­den, the vice-pres­i­dent’s wife. More vis­its are planned in com­ing months.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the US gov­ern­ment are be­gin­ning to flock to Cuba,” said Dr Hugh Auch­in­closs, deputy di­rec­tor of the US Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases. “There’s ev­ery rea­son in the world for us to be work­ing to­gether.”

The meet­ings are meant to lay the foun­da­tion for per­ma­nent co­op­er­a­tion between pub­lichealth of­fi­cials and re­searchers in the US and Cuba. The US em­bargo has pre­vented vir­tu­ally all in­ter­ac­tion between the United States and Cuba, which has made med­i­cal re­search and health care one of the na­tion’s high­est pri­or­i­ties since Fidel Cas­tro took power in 1959.

Cuba has re­ported re­mark­able suc­cess in con­tain­ing the Zika virus, lim­it­ing its spread to only three cases caught on the is­land, ac­cord­ing to Cuban of­fi­cials, even as coun­tries in the re­gion such as Puerto Rico and Venezuela have been hit by thou­sands of cases of the dis­ease.

US and Cuban med­i­cal of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day that an­other area of im­me­di­ate in­ter­est was the dengue virus, which can have less se­vere ef­fects than Zika but has been a long-stand­ing prob­lem through­out Latin Amer­ica. Cuba and the US are work­ing on vac­cines, and Cuban sci­en­tists said a com­bi­na­tion of the US and Cuban vac­cines had shown promis­ing re­sults in ini­tial an­i­mal test­ing.

AP

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