The Honorable Arlen Specter
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Specter:

On behalf of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), we are writing to urge your support for an increase of $26 million in FY 1997 for new and emerging infectious disease activities and programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID). The ASM is the largest single life science society in the world with over 42,000 members, who are involved in basic and applied research and work in clinical, public health and university laboratories as well as in industry and government. For FY 1997, the ASM recommended that Congress increase funding for infectious disease activities at the CDC, National Center for Infectious Diseases by $26 million, which is also the Administration's request. Recently, the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies and the House Committee on Appropriations recommended $82 million, an increase of $20 million in FY 1997 for CDC infectious disease programs and activities. While we are grateful for the House Committee's recommended increase, this level of funding falls short of the ASM's and the CDC's recommended increase of $26 million for new and emerging infectious diseases, which would fund these programs at a level of $88 million.

We are writing to explain why an increase of $26 million is needed for new and emerging infectious disease programs supported by the CDC. The public health infrastructure related to infectious diseases in the United States continues to be threatened due to the lack of adequate resources at CDC. The CDC is the primary agency responsible for guarding the public's health, including, among other activities, safeguarding the food and water supply and investigating outbreaks of potentially life threatening infectious diseases. The CDC has developed a strategic plan to address emerging infectious diseases and was able to begin implementation of this plan with modest budget increases in FY 1995 and FY 1996. The strategic plan, "Addressing Emerging Infectious Disease Threats: A Prevention Strategy for the United States," emphasizes surveillance and targeted research and prevention activities to maintain a strong defense against infectious diseases that threaten the public's health. The Administration's FY 97 request includes a total of $44 million for investment in the incremental implementation of the plan. The additional $26 million proposed for FY 1997 would allow the CDC to expand the four domestic sentinel and global surveillance networks which will be linked electronically and allow for a more rapid dissemination of information and increased ability to detect pathogens and antimicrobial resistance. The CDC Emerging Infectious Disease Plan is focused on four goals: strengthening the surveillance of and response to emerging infectious diseases; implementing an applied research extramural program to address important research questions related to emerging diseases; developing and implementing prevention and health communication activities and strengthening the infrastructure of CDC and state/local health departments, including laboratories, to address new and re-emerging diseases. If an increase of $20 million is available instead of the proposed $26 million in FY 1997, the CDC would have to reduce the level of program effort in FY 1997 in its strategic plan. This would result in six to eight fewer states receiving financial and technical support for surveillance and response capacity, two to three fewer comprehensive emerging infections programs established at the regional level, five to seven fewer grants for applied research, a reduced level of improvement in the epidemiologic and laboratory infrastructure at CDC and in state health departments for the early detection and investigation of emerging diseases, and reduced ability to detect and respond to epidemic threats caused by the illicit use of infectious agents. This would greatly compromise the ability of CDC and state and local health departments to respond quickly and effectively to control outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases. These reduced levels of programs and activities would postpone CDC's ability to move forward in addressing urgent emerging and re-emerging infectious disease issues that are critical to the nation's public health and security.

The ASM would like to thank you for your continued support for CDC funding and recognition of its unique role in combating infectious diseases. Recognition of this problem is the first step to controlling and preventing infectious diseases. There have been a proliferation and increase in the numbers and types of infectious diseases being identified and diagnosed both here in the United States and abroad. Infectious diseases remain the single most prevalent cause of death worldwide, and are the third ranked killer of Americans of all ages. The U.S. death rate from infectious diseases, excluding HIV/AIDS, rose by 22 percent between 1980 and 1992. Recognized infectious diseases cost the nation more than $120 billion each year (one out of every six health care dollars). The extraordinary resilience of infectious microbes which have a remarkable ability to evolve, adapt, and develop resistance to drugs requires the nation's attention and resources to prevent unnecessary human suffering. The ASM strongly recommends that, at a minimum, the Senate Subcommittee support the request for an additional $26 million for new and emerging infectious disease activities so that the CDC can proceed to further implement its national prevention strategy to address emerging infectious disease threats. Thank you for considering our request and recommendations.

We would be pleased to provide further information and to assist the Subcommittee as the appropriations bill for Labor, HHS, Education moves forward.