Report: States unprepared for bioterrorism response

They lack facilities, plans for pandemic flu

Despite an infusion of federal money, states are not substantially better prepared to respond to bioterrorism, according to a report by the Trust for America’s Health in Washington, DC.

Although all states have at least initial bioterrorism plans, only six have sufficient laboratory equipment and facilities; and only two — Florida and Illinois — have adequate staff to distribute emergency vaccines and medications in a bioterrorism event, the trust reported.

The federal government spent $940 million to beef up the public health infrastructure in fiscal year 2002, but that was partially offset by cuts in about two-thirds of the states, the trust found.

The trust urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow states to use preparedness funds for an "all-hazards" approach that "simultaneously addresses the potential for biological, chemical, radiological, and natural disease outbreaks."

Only one-quarter of states have a plan to respond to and outbreak of pandemic influenza, and few states have mechanisms to communicate about severe acute respiratory syndrome or other emerging health threats, the trust found.

(Editor’s note: For a copy of the report, Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health in the Age of Bioterrorism, go to: http://healthyamericans.org.)