The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for a stronger response to the spread of Ebola on Thursday, saying that “we have to work now so that this is not the world’s next AIDS.”
“In the 30 years I’ve been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS,” CDC director Thomas Frieden said at a World Bank meeting in Washington.
“Speed is the most important variable here. This is controllable and this was preventable,” he said. “Public health is sorely underinvested in and yet it is a best buy,” he said.
Frieden’s comments come in the wake of budget cuts at the CDC, which dropped from $6.5 billion in 2010 to $5.9 billion in 2014, according to analysis by The Hill. The CDC also took a hit during last year’s sequester, when the center cut more than $285 million dollars out of its budget, a large portion of which was initially aimed toward programs that prevent the spread of infectious disease.
Disputes over funding the response to Ebola has angered some lawmakers, including Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who blamed Congress for budget cuts in the Boston Herald on Thursday.
“So now, we’re out spending millions, billions of dollars in emergency response. People have lost their lives, we’re all very worried, instead of spending the money in advance to do more of the research to avoid this kind of problem,” said Warren, who sits on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension.
The CDC reports that more than 8,000 people have contracted the disease worldwide, resulting in nearly 4,000 deaths. The agency has predicted as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million Ebola infections by January. But there is a glimmer of hope: If 70% of the people with Ebola are properly treated, the CDC says the epidemic will dwindle and could eventually be eliminated.