Vietnam ’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) signed an agreement on response to infectious pandemics in humans and animals in Hanoi on April 7.

The agreement will serve as a foundation for MARD to join in the USAID-funded Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) programme, said MARD Deputy Minister Diep Kinh Tan.

US Deputy Chief of Mission in Vietnam , Virginia E. Palmer said EPT is aimed at improving Vietnam and other countries’ capacity in early identification of and response to dangerous pathogens in animals before they can become significant threats to human health.

The EPT programme, which will be carried out from 2011-2015, focuses on disease surveillance, training and outbreak control, especially in areas where threats are most likely to emerge such as the Congo Basin of East and Central Africa, the Mekong region of Southeast Asia, the Amazon region of South America and the Gangetic Plain of South Africa.

Since 2005, USAID has provided Vietnam with around 63 million USD to prevent avian influenza. The US cooperation with Vietnamese partners has helped reduce risks of a number of pandemics.

According to USAID, nearly 75 percent of all new, merging or re-emerging diseases affecting humans at the beginning of the 21 st century have originated in animals./.