HEALTHBEAT: US seeks to shore up world’s blind spots in preparation for next disease outbreak…”If bird flu ever mutates to spread between people, “we better look out. It will make Ebola look like a picnic,”

Saturday, November 29, 2014
By Paul Martin

Lauran Neergaard
Lillooetnews.net
November 24, 2014

WASHINGTON – The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

“It’s really urgent that we address the weak links and blind spots around the world,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press. “Ebola is a powerful reminder that a health threat anywhere can affect us.”

Ebola sprang from one of those blind spots, in an area that lacks the health systems needed to detect an outbreak before it becomes a crisis. Now the Obama administration has requested $600 million for the CDC to implement what it calls the Global Health Security Agenda, working with an international coalition to shore up disease detection in high-risk countries and guard against the next contagion.

There’s little doubt there will be a next time. Just in recent years, the world has seen bird flu sicken people in Southeast Asia, the respiratory killer SARS spread from China, the 2009 flu pandemic, growing threats from antibiotic-resistant germs, and SARS’ new cousin in the Middle East named MERS.

And what if the next bug spills across borders even more easily than Ebola?

If bird flu ever mutates to spread between people, “we better look out. It will make Ebola look like a picnic,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, warned a recent Senate Appropriations Committee as he questioned whether $600 million was enough to do the job.

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