ASM Applauds Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Response to Ebola Outbreak in Congo

March 14, 2019

Statement from the American Society for Microbiology
in response to the
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education
and Related Agencies Hearing:
“Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other Emerging Health Threats”
March 14, 2019

On behalf of its 32,000 members, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) thanks Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray, and members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies for holding a hearing on the response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and other emerging threats.

We also thank the Chairman, Ranking Member and the Subcommittee members for their unwavering support for medical research, as demonstrated by the $9 billion (30 percent) increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the past four fiscal years. We urge the Subcommittee to make a strong investment in FY 2020 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), given its work in tandem with a well-funded NIH, and its role as a critical partner in maintaining global health security.

As an organization with an extensive global health program and scientists and public health workers on the front lines in countries like the DRC, ASM understands firsthand the importance of securing our borders against natural and intentional bio threats. Our human world is more interconnected than ever, and so is our microbial world. What happens in the environments in remote areas of the world can often spell the telltale signs of the next major outbreak, wherever we happen to live, because microbes are unimpeded by the construct of human borders.

At a time when we are still addressing threats like Ebola in Africa and seeing antimicrobial resistance rise, the drastic cuts proposed to these agencies in the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request to Congress are unthinkable. If enacted, these cuts would cripple our nation’s ability to respond to threats at home, regardless of where in the world they may originate. For this reason and because of their critical importance to our national security, our public health here in the United States, and our global leadership in advancing science, ASM urges Congress to reject the President’s short-sighted cuts and continue to support robust funding for the NIH, the CDC, and programs under the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

We also urge Congress to recommit to a Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). GHSA is a critical program for international engagement and capacity building in public health. Funding for this effort is slated to end this year. Our GHSA investment has helped strengthen laboratory diagnostic capacity and reporting for surveillance in many countries, with proven results, and should continue.

Lastly, we urge the Senate to move quickly to pass legislation that reauthorizes the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), and that the Subcommittee support funding consistent with the reauthorization. The recent outbreaks of Ebola abroad and even outbreaks here in the United States of vaccine-preventable diseases like the measles demonstrate why this legislation is so critical. Our nation’s security calls for the need to prevent and mitigate a major disease outbreak, and the resources to build and sustain the infrastructure necessary for federal and state governments to respond to potential and declared public health emergencies in a timely and coordinated manner.

Ebola will not be the last virus to evolve into a major health and security threat. The only way to stay ahead of the rapid evolution of microorganisms and the inevitable emergence of new diseases is to support infectious disease research and public health agencies that can prevent and respond rapidly to outbreaks. This requires robust, sustained and predictable funding, training of personnel, and safe and secure facilities.

ASM stands ready to assist Members of the Subcommittee and the Congress in supporting and strengthening these programs under the NIH, the CDC, and USAID to ensure global health security for the United States and our allies abroad.
ASM is the largest single life science society, composed of more than 32,000 scientists and health professionals. Our mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences, including programs and initiatives funded by the federal government departments and agencies, by virtue of the pervasive role of microorganisms in health and society.

Author: ASM Communications

ASM Communications
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