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    Obama administration sends top disease specialists to Cuba
    October 19, 2016
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    HAVANA (AP) — The Obama administration sent some of the United States’
    top infectious disease specialists to Cuba on Wednesday to open a new
    phase in medical cooperation after more than a half-century of isolation.

    Two dozen U.S. and Cuban experts on tropical diseases opened three days
    of meetings about each country’s research into insect-borne diseases
    such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika. U.S. Health and Human Services
    Secretary Sylvia Burwell was to fly to Cuba Thursday 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 U.S. 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
    normalization. Republican Donald Trump has pledged to roll back Obama’s

    Obama visited in March. U.S. 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 U.S. government are beginning to flock to Cuba,”
    said Dr. Hugh Auchincloss, deputy director of the U.S. 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 public health officials and researchers in the U.S. and Cuba.
    The U.S. 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

    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.

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


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