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UK team launched to tackle disease outbreaks

Taskforce will respond globally within 48 hours

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 01 November 2016

The UK has set up a “public health rapid support team”, to respond to global requests for help to control disease outbreaks.

Consisting of clinicians, scientists and academics, the team can be deployed to tackle outbreaks of disease anywhere in the world within 48 hours. 

The government has made £20 million available from the UK development assistance budget to fund the team over five years. It will be jointly run by Public Health England and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood explained: “Ebola shook the world and brave experts from the UK led the global response in Sierra Leone. The ability to deploy emergency support to investigate and respond to disease outbreaks within 48 hours will save lives, prevent further outbreaks and cement the UK’s position as a leader in global health security.”

Commenting, the Chief Executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, said: “Speed is key in tackling infectious disease, and with this new capability we can now deploy specialists anywhere in the world within 48 hours, saving and protecting lives where an outbreak starts and helping to keep the UK safe at home.”

When not responding to outbreaks, the team will carry out research, and will train a group of public health reservists.

The team will work with counterparts in developing countries.

The team includes experts in:

  • tracking the progress of an outbreak (epidemiologists)
  • diagnosing the cause of an outbreak (microbiologists)
  • advising on outbreak control measures (infection prevention and control)
  • community responses to outbreaks (social scientists)
  • developing the best clinical response measures (clinical researchers)

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