Report: D.C. Not Ready for Outbreak

Maryland, Virgina score high; progress threatened by budget cuts

The District of Columbia is not as prepared as it could be in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.

That’s the conclusion of the eighth annual report by the Trust For America’s Health released Tuesday, entitled “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bio terrorism.” The report ranks 25 states and Washington, D.C., on their preparedness for public health emergencies.
Washington scored a seven out of 10. That score was better than 11 states and
tied with seven others. Last year, D.C. got an eight out of 10.
Maryland and Virginia fared better, scoring nine out of 10 this year.
Only three states (Arkansas, North Dakota and Washington State) scored 10 out of 10.
The scores are the highest ever, according to the report, but it found that key gains achieved since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks are in real jeopardy right now due to severe budget cuts by federal, state and local governments.
"There is an emergency for emergency health preparedness in the United States," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH.  "This year, the Great Recession is taking its toll on emergency health preparedness.  Unfortunately, the recent and continued budget cuts will exacerbate the vulnerable areas in U.S. crisis response capabilities and have the potential to reverse the progress we have made over the last decade.”
Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C., cut public health funding in the past two years.
Here are some other key findings from “Ready or Not?”:
  • Seven states cannot currently share data electronically with health care providers;
  • 10 states do not have an electronic syndromic surveillance system that can report and exchange information to rapidly detect disease outbreaks;
  • Half of states do not mandate all licensed child care facilities have a multi-hazard written evacuation and relocation plan;
  • Only four states report not having enough staffing capacity to work five, 12-hour days for six to eight weeks in response to an infectious disease outbreak, such as novel influenza A H1N1; and
  • Only one state decreased their Laboratory Response Network for Chemical Threats (LRN-C) chemical capability from Aug. 10, 2009, to Aug. 9, 2010.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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