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Medical association warns against cutting funds for detecting diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks

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Regions at risk of contracting dengue fever. WHO

The American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) is concerned over the proposed elimination of funds for detecting and controlling outbreaks of vector-borne diseases including dengue, plague, viral encephalitis, West Nile virus and Lyme disease, as called for in President Obama’s 2011 budget.

The ASTMH says cutting the surveillance budget for blood-borne infections at this time puts Americans at risk. Several cases of dengue fever, a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, has been reported in south Texas and the Florida Keys over the last five years following resurgence of the disease in Central America, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever outbreaks could spread to Corpus Christi, Houston, New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola, and other Gulf Coast cities, warns the ASTMH.

The detection program targeted for cuts, the CDC's Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases, is the only national program responsible for the diagnosis, surveillance, prevention, and control of dengue and other diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks. Half of the program’s $26.7 million budget goes to states for their research and surveillance efforts.

“At the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, we are concerned that the currently proposed 2011 budget would not provide sufficient funding for this important government function. One in fifty people in the world dies of an illness acquired from an insect bite, and tens of thousands of Americans already fall ill each year from infections transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks. Insects do not respect state borders, and neither can our national response,” said Edward Ryan, ASTMH president.

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