US intel must investigate viruses to stop outbreaks: Ex-FDA chief


US intelligence agencies should be tasked with investigating emerging public health threats overseas to combat future disease outbreaks, a former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner has said.

The public has lost trust in US health agencies and called for more funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Scott Gottlieb was quoted as saying by CNBC on Monday.

He said identifying problematic viruses abroad and equipping the CDC with better crisis mitigation resources would improve the nation’s ability to counter any new contagions that arise.

“I think going forward, we’re not going to just be able to depend on countries voluntarily sharing information,” Gottlieb told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”.

“We’re going to have to go in and have the capacity to collect it and to monitor for these things, and that means getting our foreign intelligence services much more engaged in the public health mission globally,” he added.

Gottlieb stated that countries today are less forthcoming with disease details because they fear being isolated. He noted that the US has avoided bringing intelligence agencies into international public health issues because the CDC worried that “anyone wearing a white coat overseas would be perceived to be a spy”, the report said.

Meanwhile, the US intelligence community, tasked with probing the origins of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, failed to reach a consensus.

They, however, ruled out the possibility that China developed the virus as a biological weapon, according to the report delivered to President Joe Biden last month.

Biden had, in May, ordered the country’s intelligence community “redouble their efforts” and report the origins of the pandemic within 90 days.

More than a year into the pandemic, the debate whether Covid-19 originated naturally or was leaked from a lab continues.

The global coronavirus caseload topped 229 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.69 million, according to the latest update on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins University. The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 42,286,531 and 676,059, respectively, according to the data.