Public health system strapped for cash for Ebola prevention

While cases of Ebola may continue to crop up in the United States in the coming months or years, public health departments don't have the money or resources to address breakouts of the virus, StateLine reported.

Altogether, some 51,000 local and state health officials have lost their jobs since 2008 due to budget cuts.

Funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement has dipped from a high of more than $1 billion in 2006 to $585 million in 2013, according to Stateline. The U.S. Hospital Preparedness Program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has seen funding dip from $515 million a decade ago to $255 million this year.

The cost to treat a single patient is also sky high. Care for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national treated at a Dallas hospital, cost at least $500,000. That has left some doubts in the minds of policy experts that there are enough human resources to deal with Ebola--or any other serious outbreak--should it spin out of control.

Moreover, preventive measures--such as quarantine guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or more stringent guidelines issued by 12 other states--may not be enforceable due to the lack of funding and personnel. As a result, the Obama administration asked Congress this week for $6 billion more in funding to fight Ebola both in the U.S. and abroad, and to develop more technologies to fight the spread of the disease.

"It's critically important to have a sustainable infrastructure, tools and the necessary resources to effectively address all potential health threats to the public, not just Ebola," James Blumenstock, emergency preparedness officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told StateLine. "Public health threats don't come one at a time, especially this time of year."

To learn more:
- read the StateLine article