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Cuts to CDC Epidemic Prevention Endanger Americans

Posted in Food Safety,Outbreaks & Recalls on September 21, 2018

A former chief of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the decision of the Center to cut down 80% of the CDC epidemic prevention activities overseas could raise the danger for the United States. The reason behind it is very simple. The decision can significantly increase the chances of the epidemic occurring somewhere else in the world without American having any knowledge of it. This could endanger the lives not only around the world but in the US as well.

CDC Cutting Epidemic Surveillance Programs in 39 Countries

Earlier this year, the CDC informed personnel that they would be discontinuing their work in a total of 39 out of 49 countries. The CDC’s Center for Global Health works to help prevent, detect and respond to any dangerous infections that might be fatal such as Ebola and Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did this because they said they do not expect any funding to be made for the programs that they operate throughout the world.

These cuts made by the CDC were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Cuts Endanger Americans

The decision has sure gathered some fury from an array of top health officials and organizations who said that the Trump administration and Congress are leaving the nation vulnerable to an outbreak that can easily spread and affect millions of Americans. Dr. Tom Frieden, who has been the director of CDC from 2009-2017, said that we can either help other countries in refraining from any disease outbreaks or fight them here in our own country. If the funding of the global health is not issued, CDC will have to fall back from the front lines of fighting terrible and deadly organisms in 30 different countries.

Freiden, who has dedicated much of his career to disease control and prevention, emphasized the potential danger that this decision might have. He mentioned that this would not only hinder back a lot of scientific, technical and diplomatic relationships that the CDC has taken a long time to develop.   But these would also significantly increase the chances of an epidemic being allowed to spread without any prior knowledge by America and would endanger a lot of lives in our country as well along with around the world.

Freiden is currently serving as the President and the CEO of the initiative Resolve to Save Lives. It was not just Frieden who seemed to have a problem with the decision. There is a coalition of health organizations that shared his sentiment towards CDC cuts and said it is both foolish and dangerous to make any such drastic cuts.

A joint letter from the coalition of the four groups that represents more than 200 organizations to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar read as follows, “As the United States and the world begin to reap the benefits of our investments in better disease preparedness, now is not the time to step back”. They also pointed out that the existing risk that the biological threats pose to the United States’ health, economic and national security interests demand committed and steady funding for global health security.

CDC’s Center for Global Health

The CDC’s Center for Global Health makes sure that they stop any outbreaks at their source, long before they are able to reach the United States. The Center for Global Health also monitors around 40 outbreaks in different countries every day and it has also prepared more than 10,000 disease detectives in more than 70 countries. (According to the information available on the CDC’s website.)

The initiative spun off during Frieden’s tenure and was funded for five years. It is going to end in October 2019. Personnel were notified of the CDC cuts in a conference call that lasted 40 minutes and was held in January 18. Dr. Rebecca Martin who serves as the Director for the Center of Global Health lists a series of successes that included helping Sierra Leone quickly identifying outbreaks and aiding the Democratic Republic of Congo in its fight against Ebola. The information was given by a source familiar with the call.

Martin said that the work would remain in 10 priority countries including India, Thailand, Jordan, Kenya, Vietnam, Uganda, Nigeria Liberia, Senegal and Guatemala. Transition planning to end them was underway in the 39 other countries where the program still operates. Full departure from these countries will be made by October 2020. When the program receives more funding then the Center could broaden the operations to another five countries such as: China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.

She also mentioned that the committee understands and appreciates that this is difficult news and it has been disappointing and frustrating for a lot of staff – both in the headquarters and in the field. Dr. Nancy Knight who is the director of the Center for Global Health’s Division of Global Health Protection explained the magnitude of the cuts during the call. She said that the cuts would cut across the entire Division of Global Health Protection portfolio of programs. This means that there were will be an approximately 80% reduction in the staff that operate overseas in the facilities. An after effect that will also result in significant reduction of the staff in the program’s United States headquarters as well.

The CDC issued a statement saying that it is currently busy getting a deliberative food  policy in process to help determine our commitments moving forward. They are still awaiting the administration’s new budget that is expected to come out in late February.

The Division of Global Health Protection described the importance of their work on their website. They explained that the world we live in is highly connected and continually mobile. Any impact on health threat no matter where and how it happens reaches farther and wider than we could ever imagine. We do know, in fact, that a disease can easily be transported from an isolated rural village to any other metropolitan city in as little time as 36 hours. So, an outbreak or health threat anywhere can reach everywhere. We need health agencies like the CDC more than ever. Stay safe out there.

By: Pooja Sharma, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)