Infectious diseases -- most of which are preventable -- disrupt the lives of millions of Americans each year. But the country does not sufficiently invest in basic protections that could help avoid significant numbers of outbreaks and save billions of dollars in unnecessary healthcare costs. U.S. investments in infectious disease prevention ebb and flow, where there is a major ramp up when a new eminent threat emerges, but then falls back when the problem seems contained.
In the most recent example last year, the Ebola outbreak resulted in ephemeral attention and emergency supplemental funding to backfill gaps in the nation's ability to respond. But, lags in even emergency funding processes meant much of the support came too late to address immediate needs in states and in Africa. And the funding was not at a sufficient level to shore up ongoing gaps, leaving the United States still vulnerable for when the next emerging threat arises.
Fighting infectious disease requires constant vigilance. Policies and resources must be in place to allow scientists and public health and medical experts to have the tools they need to: control ongoing outbreaks -- such as HIV/AIDS, antibiotic-resistant superbugs and foodborne illnesses; detect new or reemerging outbreaks -- such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), measles and avian flu; and monitor for potential bioterrorist threats -- such as anthrax or smallpox.