Chem­i­cal se­cu­rity is vi­tal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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