Health Highlights: Feb. 2, 2018
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
CDC Slashes Budget for International Disease Outbreaks
Health experts are concerned about the downsizing of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention programs to help 49 countries fight infectious disease epidemics like Ebola.
In 2014, the CDC received about $600 million in a one-time, five-year emergency package approved by Congress during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The goal was to help other nations prevent infectious disease outbreaks from becoming epidemics, the Washington Post reported.
In order to halt future outbreaks at their source, the programs train front-line workers in outbreak detection and improve laboratory facilities and emergency response systems in countries with the highest risk of infectious diseases.
The one-time funding is set to run out by September 2019. The Trump administration has said it’s important to control infectious disease outbreaks, but has not budgeted more money for the CDC programs, infectious disease experts say.
As a result, the CDC is planning to narrow its focus to 10 priority countries in October 2019: India, Thailand and Vietnam in Asia; Jordan in the Middle East; and Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal in Africa; and Guatemala in Central America, the Post reported.
Programs will be scaled back in a number of countries considered hot spots for emerging infectious diseases, including China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An Ebola outbreak last year in a remote, forested region of Congo was quickly contained with the help of CDC-trained disease experts and rapid responders, the Post reported.
A reduction in the CDC’s epidemic prevention funding could leave the world unprepared for the next outbreak, global health organizations warn. A fast response can mean the difference between a contained outbreak and a worldwide health crisis.
A coalition of more than 200 global health organizations and companies have asked the Trump administration to reconsider the planned reductions to the CDC’s outbreak control programs, which they described as essential to health and national security, the Post reported.
“Not only will CDC be forced to narrow its countries of operations, but the U.S. also stands to lose vital information about epidemic threats garnered on the ground through trusted relationships, real-time surveillance, and research,” the coalition wrote in a letter sent Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The programs are “the front line against terrible organisms,” said Tom Frieden, the former CDC director who led the agency during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, the Post reported.
“Like terrorism, you can’t fight (dangerous pathogens) just within our borders. You’ve got to fight epidemic diseases where they emerge,” said Frieden, who now leads Resolve to Save Lives, a global initiative to prevent epidemics.
“Either we help or hope we get lucky it isn’t an epidemic that travelers will catch or spread to our country,” Frieden told the Post.
The downsizing of the CDC effort could lead other countries to do the same, warned Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The CDC and its federal partners remain committed to “prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats,” said CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben, the Post reported.
U.K. Clinic Gets Okay to Make Babies With DNA From 3 People
Doctors at a clinic in England have received permission to create babies from the DNA of three people, Britain’s fertility authority says.
The approval is the first in the U.K. and is meant to help prevent two women from passing deadly genetic diseases to their children, the Associated Press reported.
The first baby created using this technique, which uses DNA from two women and one man, was born in Mexico in 2016.
Newcastle University last year received a license to use this technique, but still requires approval from Britain’s fertility authority to use it on individual patients, the AP reported.