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CDC Fighting Emerging Diseases

September 11, 1998

ATLANTA (AP) _ Federal health officials hope the emergence of new diseases and drug-resistant germs will persuade Congress to approve $200 million to help fight the problem.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants the money to beef up programs started in 1994 to identify new illnesses and resilient old killers before they’re able to spread undetected.

Now the CDC is asking for more than three times the $59 million it has received for the project over the last four years. Officials say the amount is justified by recent outbreaks of illnesses such as Asian bird flu and mad-cow disease.

``We’ve made a lot of progress since 1993,″ said Dr. James Hughes, director of CDC’s National Center for Infectious Diseases. ``As we’ve improved surveillance, of course, we found more and more problems.″

Since 1994, the CDC has started programs in seven states that have succeeded in uncovering outbreaks of illnesses such as E. coli. But Congress has paid for only about a third of the programs requested by the CDC.

The CDC said Thursday that it wants to expand existing programs and partnerships with state and local health departments. The agency also wants more funding for labs that help with global disease investigations and to help states in watching for new illnesses.

There would also be a greater focus on problem areas, such as antibiotic-resistant germs, diseases carried by infected animals or contaminated food, and illnesses brought into the United States from abroad.

CDC officials said several new threats have emerged since 1994 _ the killer flu that spread from chickens to humans in Hong Kong last winter, and the variant of a deadly brain disease that killed more than 20 people in Britain who ate contaminated beef.

Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis also have popped up around the globe, and a staph germ that can survive the most powerful antibiotics has been reported in the United States and Japan.

The additional money would also go toward watching more closely for bioterrorist attacks.

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