MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger has requested the legislature create a public health response contingency fund to help battle infectious disease outbreaks.

On Wednesday, Ehlinger released a statement regarding an immediate need for an emergency fund, citing the recent response to a series of infectious disease outbreaks.

Those outbreaks include multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, hundreds of new syphilis cases and the measles outbreak, which is the worst Minnesota has faced in nearly 30 years.

Ehlinger says the outbreaks come at the heels of extensive public health efforts in 2016 due to Zika virus response and in 2014 and 2015 for Ebola preparedness.

“Minnesotans rightly expect a rapid and effective response to these threats, but current state funds lack the flexibility needed to deal with emergent disease threats. We cannot continue diverting funding and resources away from other vital public health services to respond to disease outbreaks and threats,” Ehlinger said.

Ehlinger is requesting the legislature create a public health response contingency fund of $5 million to “to ensure sufficient resources are available for immediate, life-saving actions to protect Minnesotans from infectious disease outbreaks and other unanticipated public health threats.”

He says Gov. Mark Dayton has given him support for the proposal and they both will be advocating for its inclusion in any final legislative budget agreement.

State and local response costs just in the first half of 2017 are approaching $3 million for measles, tuberculosis and syphilis.


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