US is unprepared for a bio-terrorist attack

by Medindia Content Team on  December 7, 2005 at 12:46 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
US is unprepared for a bio-terrorist attack
The US based Trust for America's Health (TFAH) has revealed that the country has progressed very little where national security is concerned, even after the 11 September 2001 attacks. The disaster response systems are still in a poor condition in many of the states. Over 50% of the states in the US measured up to five or less of the 10 indicators of the report, and only Virginia, South Carolina and Delaware met 8 indicators. The issues are very important from the point of view of terror attacks as well as natural disasters. The health care workers of the country may not me able to cope with a major disease outbreak or even chemical terrorism or a bio-terrorist attack.

The shortcomings are inclusive of being unprepared for chemical terrorism or being unable to ensure that healthcare workers could continue to work during a major disease outbreak. Most states had too many vulnerabilities and not enough strengths to adequately counter a natural disaster, a pandemic virus or a bio-terrorist attack, the report said. The Government has been given a rating of D-plus with regard to overall disaster preparedness, while the leadership is reported to be poor when it comes to dealing with a pandemic flu.

Several public health issues like childhood vaccines were investigated by the Trust for America's Health. There is a lack of performance standards, accountability and money where the efforts of the states are concerned. Most of the states have been rated at the C-minus level, as against an 'A' level which is required. Only New York and Chicago and seven other states are in a position to distribute antidotes and vaccines if an emergency arises, while over 25% of the states have insufficient capabilities with regard to bio-terrorism laboratory response. Another 20% of the states do not have enough number of scientists for managing tests in the case of plague or anthrax outbreaks, and another 10% of the states have the capacity to respond to a chemical terrorist attack. Backup supplies are lacking in over 40% of the hospitals in the states.

The Hurricane Katrina disaster was an example which illustrates how poor the response capabilities of the US are. These conclusions were arrived at after conducting a survey of 20 leading public-health experts, and over 1,800 members belonging to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology across the country. The health workers in the country also need to be assured that their own families will be taken care of during an emergency. Such an emergency is likely to arise if the H5N1 avian influenza acquires the capability to pass from one human being to another, and can kill several million people within a period of months.

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