But most of those trainees focus on diseases that circle the globe, researchers point out, including flu, mosquito-borne viruses, vaccine-preventable diseases and bioterrorism agents.
The idea of eliminating the center “is just atrocious,” said Dr. Daniel G. Bausch, a Tulane University virologist and the scientific program director at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. “It would have a severe impact not just on global health but on American health.”
“Even if you don’t care about your neighbors, if you see a fire across the street, your best bet to protect your house is not to just stand in your yard with a bucket of water,” he added. “It’s to help put it out.”
New viral threats are constant. Pathogens like SARS, MERS, dengue and H7N9 avian flu have already probed America’s defenses: Cases have reached these shores in people or in birds, but have not yet killed anyone.
The Zika virus, which is lethal to unborn babies, is still probing our limits; it is expected to return to this country this summer. Still in the wings are a host of other threats: The Nipah virus and Lassa fever, for example, are considered so dangerous that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors recently announced a $500 million fund to jump-start the development of vaccines against them.
Rift Valley fever, Japanese encephalitis, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever and many others lie in wait, and they are less remote than most Americans realize. Crimean-Congo fever, despite its exotic hybrid Russian-African name, circulates even in Spain. It killed someone there last year.
The early-warning system that protects America against viruses resembles the one that protects it against missiles. A network of laboratories around the world, known as World Health Organization reference labs, collects samples from disease outbreaks in…