Physicians call for increased funding for federal infectious disease programs

re the third leading cause of death in the United States. "Infectious diseases don't respect borders and, in the current era of high-speed global travel, can move easily from one part of the world to another," said Dr. Stamm. "We saw this with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and many experts fear we may see it with avian influenza. Add to this threat the risk that microbes resistant to existing antibiotics could be developed by terrorists or by mother nature, and the value offered by strong public health prevention and control and infectious diseases research programs is crystal clear."

The influenza pandemic of 1918 resulted in more than 500,000 fatalities in the United States and nearly 21 million deaths worldwide. Should even a modest influenza pandemic occur in the U.S. today, CDC estimates up to 200,000 deaths could result. The president's budget increases funding for pandemic influenza preparedness by $21 million, to $120 million. IDSA urges Congress to approve at least this level of spending. "The pressing question about the next pandemic is not whether it will occur, but when, and will we be ready," said Dr. Stamm. "The challenges of this past influenza season clearly demonstrate the need to strengthen pandemic influenza and other immunization programs."

Equally challenging is the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance. About 2 million people acquire bacterial infections in U.S. hospitals each year, and 90,000 die as a result. About 70 percent of these infections are resistant to at least one drug, according to CDC. The total cost of antimicrobial resistance to U.S. society is nearly $5 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Although drug resistance is on the rise, very few new antibiotics are being developed. "We must reinvigorate the anti-infectives market so that infectious disease doctors have the drugs we need to take care of our patients," said Dr. Stamm.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to

Contact: Steve Baragona
Infectious Diseases Society of America

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