Infectious Disease Funding Dries up at CDC and USAID

In late 2014, Congress appropriated $5.4 billion to deal with a historic Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Roughly $1 billion of that funding was applied toward helping impacted developing countries improve their abilities to more rapidly detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks in hopes of averting similar crises in the future.

Those funds were largely divided between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the USAID, both of whom used the money “to train epidemiologists, buy equipment, upgrade labs, and stockpile drugs,” according to Government Executive.

That funding is now coming to an end, and leaders within the CDC and USAID are preparing to scale-back operations, with no guarantee of additional appropriated funds to sustain their efforts.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to scale back or discontinue its work to prevent infectious-disease epidemics and other health threats in 39 foreign countries because it expects funding for the work to end,” the CDC wrote in a memo to employees.

According to Tom Frieden, a former director at CDC and the head of an initiative called Resolve to Save Lives, the threats posed by scaling back this research is not something to ignore, even if it seems far removed from our physical borders.

“We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” says Frieden of the potential loss of funding. “The surveillance systems will die, so we won’t know if something happens. The lab networks won’t be built, so if something happens, we won’t know what it is. We can’t be safe if the world isn’t safe. You can’t pull up the drawbridge and expect viruses not to travel.”




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