Create UF center to study emerging pathogens and protect state

FLORIDA - From fire ants to Formosan termites to water-sopping Melaleuca trees, hundreds of invasive plants and animals threaten Florida's economy, agriculture and environment.

The good news is, federal and state officials have established effective control programs for many species introduced on our shores. The bad news is, we are not nearly as well prepared to deal with a more ominous threat already leaving its mark on the Sunshine State. This is the threat of new and emerging diseases.

This was made abundantly clear at the Feb. 16 Tallahassee summit on bird flu. There, Gov. Jeb Bush predicted Florida would be among the first states with bird flu cases if a pandemic broke out.

Yet the state soon to become the third largest in the country has no centralized research and response capability. We owe it to Florida residents and businesses to better protect them against such threats.

That's why we're asking the Florida Legislature to create what is best described as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - similar to the federal CDC but for Florida - at the University of Florida.

We're calling it the Institute for Advanced Study of Emerging Pathogens. We're seeking $6.7 million in state funding divided among the university's general budget as well as its budgets for the health science center and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

With Florida's warm climate, huge number of visitors and intense trade with South America, we're probably more susceptible to new diseases than any other state. That goes for diseases that sicken not only people, but also animals and plants.

Although the high-profile example is bird flu, an increasing number of lesser-known but still dangerous pathogens await their opportunity to wreak havoc.

Source: Tallahassee Democrat
calendar icon 27 February 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
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