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    Zika, cancer focus of new U.S., Cuba accord on public health

    Accord is the 8th between the two countries since relations
    reestablished. Topics include battling Zika-carrying mosquitoes, winning
    FDA approval for Cuban cancer drug.
    BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ
    fordonez@mcclatchydc.com

    WASHINGTON
    Cuba and the United States signed a public health agreement Monday
    promising to work together in the fight against Zika and cancer.

    Cuban Health Minister Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda signed the agreement
    at the start of a three-day visit to the United States.

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the primary conveyors of the Zika virus. A
    new public health agreement with Cuba foresees the U.S. and the island
    nation exchanging information on fighting the virus. Felipe Dana AP
    Ambassador Jimmy Kolker, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department
    of Health and Human Services, said the memorandum of understanding
    allows the United States to tap into Cuba’s critical expertise combating
    tropical viruses spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito.

    “There is an epidemiological value in communicating with Cuba,” Kolker
    said. “Zika has focused people’s minds on the close relationship we have
    because of geographic proximity and the possible impact of climate
    change in which some diseases that were just known in tropical areas are
    spreading to the continental United States.”

    Cuba was one of the last countries in the hemisphere to detect cases of
    Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that is believed responsible for birth
    defects and other complications.

    The Cuban government has conducted an aggressive anti-Zika campaign,
    sending thousands of military personnel and police door-to-door to
    fumigate for mosquitoes, dispatching doctors to airports and cruise ship
    terminals to monitor travelers for Zika symptoms, and using state-run
    television to advise citizens on how to protect themselves against the
    virus.

    The memorandum of understanding also calls for coordination in a number
    of other public health areas, including global health security,
    communicable and non-communicable diseases, research development and
    technology.

    Kolker said the agreement could also help bring a Cuban-developed
    vaccine against lung cancer to the United States.

    Kolker said the prospects for the vaccine have intrigued U.S. medical
    researchers, who are eager to help the drug go through the lengthy Food
    and Drug Administration approval process. Under the memorandum of
    understanding, U.S. officials will help the Cubans better understand the
    approval process and assemble the evidence needed to gain FDA approval.

    Researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.,
    already are working with Cuban researchers on a clinical trial for the
    vaccine in the United States. The trials could begin this summer, White
    House officials have said.

    Cancer is the leading cause of death in Cuba and second-leading cause in
    the United States.

    The memorandum of understanding was the eighth accord signed between the
    two countries since Dec. 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and Cuban
    leader Raúl Castro announced steps to end more than a half-century of
    hostility. The other agreements tackle environmental challenges, allow
    direct mail and the coordination of security data.

    Cuban officials declined a request for an interview on the public health
    agreement, but state media reported Morales would be joined by members
    of Cuba’s biopharmacy industry, and directors of leading Cuban research
    institutes and drug control centers for the three-day visit.

    Email: fordonez@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @francoordonez.

    Source: Zika, cancer focus of new U.S., Cuba accord on public health |
    In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article83559002.html

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