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U.S. Outbreaks Of Dengue, West Nile Demonstrate Need For U.S Investment In Neglected Diseases

The “growing public health problems” of West Nile and dengue viruses in the U.S. can “serve as opportunities to pull the U.S. squarely into the global fight against these mosquito-borne viruses,” a Bloomberg View editorial states. “The two illnesses have come to the U.S. courtesy of climate change and globalization,” the editorial notes, writing, “No vaccines, no cures and no specific medicines exist to prevent or treat dengue or West Nile.” It continues, “That is not uncommon for illnesses that predominantly affect the developing world,” as “[c]ompanies with the know-how to develop such products have generally lacked the profit motive to make the necessary investments, given that sales would be mainly in poor countries.”

“The U.S. government invests directly in neglected disease research, principally through the National Institutes of Health,” and “[i]t also supports non-profit organizations called product development partnerships that spur innovation and bring products for neglected diseases to market,” the editorial states. “Although the U.S. is the largest funder of neglected disease research, its spending declined 5.1 percent in 2010, according to an annual survey conducted by the research group Policy Cures,” the editorial notes, concluding, “Traditionally, government spending on neglected diseases has been seen as charity or foreign assistance. … As the U.S. outbreaks of West Nile and dengue show, this spending is now a vital investment in the health of American citizens” (9/3).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.