Obama Ignored CDC 2008 Memo Urging U.S. to Build 18 Detection Global Centers for Ebola-like Diseases
October 17, 2014 • 9:22AM

In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged the incoming Obama Administration to set up 18 regional disease-detection centers around the world to protect the U.S. from emerging health threats like Ebola. The Obama Administration, warned six years ago, did not act, and today the world faces the threat of mass death from the Ebola virus.

Wednesday, Washington Times reporter Jim McElhatton broke the story of the Obama Administration's failure to prepare the U.S. for global health threats like Ebola, based on a FOIA response to a request made by The Washington Times. Its FOIA request produced the CDC's 128-page, 2008 memo sent to Obama's Transtion Team, which identified the funding cuts to the CDC as specifically harming an ability to handle an Ebola outbreak: "Programs for rabies, rotavirus, food safety, special pathogens like Ebola virus and many others need immediate support if they are to sustain their baseline capabilities," the CDC warned Obama.

The memo stated, "The existing centers have already proven their effectiveness and impact in detecting and responding to outbreaks including avian influenza, aflatoxin poisoning, Rift Valley fever, Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks."

The CDC plan outlined in the memo to Obama said the U.S. should not wait for a disease to enter the U.S., but rather monitor threats in hot spots globally to help local public health authorities control outbreaks before then. Now, there are more than 8,000 Ebola cases in West Africa, and only now are preparations and procedures ramping up in the U.S.

In 2008, the CDC had 5 centers set up around the world; today, it has only 8. None are in West Africa, ground zero of the Ebola outbreak. The CDC memo described the erosion of the funding for U.S. disease preparedness under the George W. Bush Administration, and stated that the "core funding" for noninfluenza infectious diseases was not there, "leaving us many millions behind where we were five years ago when adjusted for inflation... Programs for rabies, rotavirus, food safety, special pathogens like Ebola virus and many others need immediate support if they are to sustain their baseline capabilities."

The Washington Times reports that neither the Obama White House nor the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, would comment on the CDC's recommendations.