Commentary: Trump's budget makes America more vulnerable to bioterrorism

Johns Hopkins experts explore potential ramifications of proposed cuts at CDC, DHS, FEMA

The federal budget proposed by the Trump administration last week is "uniquely drastic" with regards to cuts for programs designed to help the U.S. withstand and respond to biological attacks and pandemics, according to three experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"It would undo the bipartisan progress to build our biodefenses by crippling, and in some cases eliminating, programs that are vital to our national health security," Tara Kirk Sell, Crystal Watson, and Matthew Watson write in a commentary published Wednesday by The Hill titled "How Trump's budget makes us all vulnerable to bioterrorism."

Sell, Watson, and Watson are all affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, which aims to protect people's health from the consequences of epidemics and disasters by conducting research and making policy recommendations. The center rejoined Johns Hopkins earlier this year.

Proposed cuts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Environmental Protection agency would jeopardize preparedness and response, the authors note, by reducing funding for assets that "protect the health and safety of all Americans."

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One important domestic biological threat is the potential for wide-area anthrax attacks, much larger than occurred in 2001. In such an attack, emergency rooms would be flooded with patients of all ages experiencing severe respiratory distress, extreme anxiety about their potential exposure, or both.

Politicians, individuals on social media and media would be trying to assess the damage, attribute blame and understand what was being done to respond. All would be trying to save lives, understand what happened and figure out what to do next. Political concerns, economic prosperity and societal stability would hang in the balance. Such an event would be terrible, but if the proposed budget cuts are enacted, the impact would be far more dire.

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