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    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Bioterror/Pandemic Preparedenss: How are we doing? Not so good, according to a "non-profit and nonpartisan" watchdog group, Trust for America's Health :

    The group gave a C to the Strategic National Stockpile, the CDC's cache of medications, vaccines and emergency surgical supplies. It gave a C- to the federal government's pandemic flu planning and its surveillance program for dangerous pathogens, and a D for lack of coordination among federal health agencies and for the government's Katrina response. The Smallpox Initiative got a D-.

    Weicker said grades are low because the federal response to public health challenges has been sluggish. He and others with his group say grades can improve if federal and state governments publicize all disaster plans and invite the public to participate in emergency planning.

    'We've conducted these series of studies ... to provide a tool to help the nation move forward in an all-hazards strategy,' said Shelley Hearne, executive director of the group. 'We've had a long string of reality calls out there, from Katrina to SARS to anthrax.' She said a majority of states are woefully unprepared. On 10 key measures of preparedness, New York met 7. There are BSL-3 (bio-safety level-3) laboratories in the state capable of handling and identifying potential killer pathogens. New York also has infection control experts available within 15 minutes' notice, a key indicator of preparedness, according to the report. Most states received a 5 or less. Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia scored the highest, with a rank of 8. The lowest were Alabama, Alaska, Iowa and New Hampshire, with 2.

    I'm glad somebody's watching and speaking up about this. It wasn't until the government started emphasizing the pandemic influenza threat that public health officials got behind the call for preparedness - and pandemic flu and bioterrorism preparedness are of the same cloth. In many ways they'll require the same sort of response. Now, the question is, is anyone listening?

    Trust for America's Health's website is here, and while it seems to be an organization devoted to tracking the state of all sorts of diseases, from asthma to obesity, the need to track states' preparedness for true public health emergencies - i.e. infectious diseases both natural and terrorism-related - is a very real and urgent need. Glad they're doing it. You can also check on your state's preparedness at the site. My state isn't doing so good.

    UPDATE: Chuck Simmons is skeptical about avian flu, and emails:

    Preparedness is a nice thing. But no one wants to pay to be prepared for 100% of the eventualities. The military is never funded to fight every potential war. Public health agencies aren't funded to fight a once in a life time pandemic. That's reality.

    Every critic of preparedness is selling something, even if his or her expertise. None of these critics can explain why the bird flu will be another Spanish Flu and not another swine flu. But, they'll offer to study it if they can get funding.

    I did a presentation on bird flu for my ambulance corps. My suggestions to the members were an annual flu shot and a pneumonia vaccination.

    I don't doubt that we will have, someday, another flu pandemic. I just doubt that anyone can predict its severity or its start date.

    posted by Sydney on 12/07/2005 08:54:00 AM 0 comments


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