The US taught the world public health. Now it’s getting schooled


When a new and mysterious virus emerged in the middle of China in late 2019, no one from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was stationed there to investigate the outbreak.

Since 2017, the CDC had slashed its China staff by more than half, from eight US disease experts down to three.

“As soon as we’re given the invitation, we are happy to do that,” the CDC’s Nancy Messonnier would tell reporters in mid-February, when asked whether the CDC was investigating the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

“We haven’t been invited yet.”

As the CDC waited, others around the globe raced to confront this new and troubling disease.

  • The CDC, started in the late 1940s as a way to combat malaria in the American south, quickly became the world authority on infectious disease.
  • That authority is being put into question as the CDC fumbles its coronavirus response.
  • Business Insider spoke with several former CDC leaders and staff about the shift, and why it’s putting the US woefully behind in its coronavirus readiness.

In January, German scientist Christian Drosten provided the world with its first coronavirus test, just six days after the virus’ genetic sequence was released from China.

The CDC fumbled for two more months dispatching its own coronavirus test, delaying a rollout of flawed test kits to many US state health departments into March.

By then, the virus had already been spreading for weeks, untested, across the country from Seattle to New York and Florida. Americans just didn’t know it, because they didn’t have the tests to show it.

For two months now, the CDC has been silent at a time when the country has, arguably, never needed its guidance more. The US public health agency hasn’t held a press briefing since March 9, and as states begin to consider how best to reopen their doors, the CDC’s detailed guidance, which could provide a safety reference for restaurants, churches, and schools, is being shelved.

This slow, unusually stifled, and seemingly flawed coronavirus response stands in sharp contrast to the lightning-quick speed the CDC mustered the last time a pandemic virus confronted this nation, and the world.

Read full article here.

Hilary Brueck – Business Insider Australia – May 10, 2020.

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