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Congress must set funding priorities

Among President Barack Obama’s budget requests last year was $5.4 billion to fight Ebola abroad and ensure this country is better prepared for an outbreak. Ebola made big headlines, after all.

Indeed, Ebola is a serious health concern in Africa. This year’s outbreak, the worst in history, already has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

But other diseases are much worse scourges. Last year, AIDS-related illnesses killed about 1.5 million people worldwide, including several thousand in this country. The U.S. spends about $6.2 billion a year to fight AIDS overseas (and $24.2 billion domestically.)

Also in 2013, malaria claimed an estimated 584,000 lives worldwide – including those of about 453,000 children under age 5.

In terms of infectious diseases, Ebola is nothing special. Unless steps are taken to fight it, that could change, of course.

Even a nation as prosperous as ours has limits. Congress, then, should commission a study aimed at helping prioritize how we spend money to battle disease worldwide.

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