Bioterrorism, Health-Emergency Preparedness Eroding: Report
December 21, 2011
by Katherine Hobson
Wall Street Journal
Fears over bioterrorism have the U.S. government asking scientists to hold backon publishing details of their experiments with the bird flu virus.
That development comes against a backdrop of declining preparedness on the part of U.S. public-health departments to respond not only to potential bioterrorism attacks, but also outbreaks of new diseases and natural disasters, a new report says.
Budget cuts at all levels of government are the culprit, according to the annual reportreleased yesterday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (We’ve written before about the budget crunch facing public-health departments.)
Among the report’s findings: of the 72 cities in the Cities Readiness Initiative, 51 are at risk of losing funding from the program, which supports the ability to distribute vaccines and medications during emergencies. The report also says that all ten state labs with Level One chemical-threat testing status — which means they test for a variety of chemical agents and can provide extra capacity to the CDC in case of an emergency — are in danger of losing their top-level capability.
Not surprisingly, the report’s recommendations include assuring dedicated funding for public-health preparedness. Another one: modernizing biosurveillance to quickly and accurately detect disease outbreaks or threats.
In October, a report from the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center found the U.S. woefully unprepared to deal with many aspects of different bioterrorism scenarios.
Wondering what the Trust for America's Health is? As we explained a few years back, it’s a not-for-profit group that monitors how emergency-preparedness funds are spent. It also reports on and advocates for disease prevention.
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