The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced $75.8 million in funding for states and communities to strengthen their ability to quickly respond to infectious disease threats.
Money from the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement (ELC) goes to all 50 state health departments, six of the country's biggest local health departments, and eight territories and US affiliates.
The funding infusion comes as state health departments and their federal partners are working to pinpoint the source of a multistate Cyclospora outbreak and as state health departments gear up to test for new diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the new H7N9 flu strain infecting people in China.
In a statement today the CDC said the ELC funding pays for more than 1,000 full- and part-time positions in health departments, including epidemiologists, laboratorians, and health information systems staff.
Beth Bell, MD, MPH, director of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said in a statement that the funding is essential for shoring up the national infectious-disease infrastructure. "With many infectious diseases first identified at the local level, this funding ensures that state health departments are able to effectively prevent, detect and respond to such public health threats."
ELC funding is targeted to surveillance, detection, and response to a variety of current and emerging outbreak scenarios, including vectorborne, foodborne, influenza, and healthcare-associated infections.
The CDC said the latest awards are in addition to $13.7 million that went out in January to cover ELC activities through May.
Scott Becker, MS, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), said a quick analysis of the funding suggests that the new funding total amounts to a 4% drop from last year. "Given sequestration, that's as good as we can hope," he told CIDRAP News. "Having just a small cut shows how important public health surveillance is in this country."
He said that without the ELC funding, along with the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative grants, the country would have extremely limited capacity to respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
ELC funding began in 1995 in the wake of a pivotal Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the nation's microbial threats.
Aug 20 CDC press release
CDC ELC program background