In a move to prevent future outbreaks of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the US and Taiwan recently held a workshop in the Taiwanese city of Tainan centered around testing and diagnosis of the lethal disease. Four US disease control experts gave presentations to a collection of around 20 specialists from India, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and several ASEAN countries.
Running August 12-14, the workshop was the first joint program to be initiated by the American and Taiwanese governments since the two signed a memorandum of understanding on June 1 that created a Global Cooperation and Training Framework aimed at expanding bilateral cooperation in the areas of international public health and humanitarian aid, among others.
The workshop was launched largely in response to South Korea’s recent MERS outbreak, which was declared over by the South Korean government at the end of July. Although Taiwan has reported no cases of the virus since the start of the Korean outbreak in May, the Taiwanese government shared information with regional neighbors during the outbreak in order to augment previous precautionary measures intended to prevent the arrival of MERS on its shores.
Cooperation on public health has served as a key component of US-Taiwan relations in recent years, particularly because of Taiwan’s limited ability to access the resources of the World Health Organization and other coordinating groups. In March, the US and Taiwan launched a similar training program in Tainan that instructed medical personnel from around Southeast Asia on methods to combat the Ebola virus in case the disease spread to Asia. Taiwan also sent medical experts to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the height of the outbreak and donated $1 million to the US CDC Foundation in December 2014 to bolster the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Patrick Madaj is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma.