Four years ago, the highly contagious and deadly Ebola virus showed up in our city and fears of an outbreak spread across the nation. Within months, Congress approved plans to spend millions fighting the disease. But in recent weeks President Trump announced he would cut $252 million in federal Ebola funds as part of a $15 billion cut across multiple departments.

This week, the White House reversed course and restored the Ebola funds. We commend the decision, but then this funding never should have been on the chopping block.

Diseases do not recognize international borders. Back in September 2014, Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man visiting our city, tested positive for Ebola, a disease that took him from full health to his deathbed within weeks.

Fortunately, his contracting the disease didn’t cause an outbreak of anything other than panic. Since then, some strides against the disease have been made, and new signs of worry have emerged.

On the good side of the ledger, an experimental vaccine has been developed. But efforts against Ebola will only work if they are administered. And the best place to control the disease is where it is spreading. In this case, we must focus on sub-Saharan Africa countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a new outbreak in recent weeks posed the serious risk of the disease spreading in a densely populated area.

Officials on the ground are working to contain the disease, but the episode underscores a larger point. To be successful, efforts to curb the disease need to build capacities within local health care systems. Doing so enables local officials to save those most at risk while also building a firewall against a wider outbreak. And it’s worth noting that when a health system has the capacity to fight one disease, it can also quickly respond to other diseases.

While this latest Ebola outbreak was re-emerging in the Congo, the risk of falling into apathy was very real in Washington. There the president used his rescission powers to initially cut the last part of a $1 billion Ebola spending request that dates back to 2015. Facing pressure, the White House reversed course before Congress acted.

Back in 2014 in the thick of the Ebola crisis, such an expenditure would have felt cheap. Now it looks like a smart investment against future risk. Preventing such a disease from reaching an American city requires investing now, before a crisis is again upon us.

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