Chemical security is vital
THE CHEMICAL attack at London City Airport (“Chemical incident grounds planes”, October 22) is a reminder that we are vulnerable not only to dangerous infectious diseases, but also to the accidental and deliberate release of dangerous chemicals.
In a recent study trip I led to the US’s top health and military medical science facilities in Washington, Baltimore and Atlanta, a small group of South African health specialists were immersed in global plans – called the Global Health Security Agenda – to tackle the five domains of health security: biosecurity; radiological and nuclear security; chemical security; pandemic flu and emerging infectious diseases; and multiple-hazard and general preparedness.
In Africa, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt are advancing with reasonable levels of preparedness, but have ways to go. The AU has concluded an agreement with the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) to establish an African CDC with five regional hubs to monitor infectious disease outbreaks and mobilise counter-measures.
South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases is also playing a pivotal role in leading what is known as CDC “action packages” in laboratory bio-safety. Labs are where dangerous chemicals are made and must be made absolutely safe.