Bush Budget To Call for $274 Million for Preparedness Against Bioterrorism, Other Public Health Threats
The Bush administration on Thursday announced that its fiscal year 2005 budget, which will be unveiled Monday, will include a proposal to spend $274 million for preparedness efforts against bioterrorist attacks and other threats to public health, the Los Angeles Times reports. The funds, at least double the amount for such efforts in the FY 2004 budget, would be used to monitor unusual disease trends, inspect imported foods and improve public health data sharing between branches of government. The money would be divided among HHS, which would receive $135 million; the Department of Homeland Security, which would receive $129 million; and the Department of Agriculture, which would receive $10 million to improve food and animal surveillance (Marino, Los Angeles Times, 1/30). The departments are expected to use the funds to develop a disease monitoring system that would report symptoms, medication use and disease diagnosis in real time, allowing health officials to quickly locate and investigate clusters of outbreaks (Reuters/Washington Times, 1/30). The system could be used to track public health threats, such as avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, West Nile virus and mad cow disease. "We'll be able to get information from hospitals, pharmacists and clinics across America on a daily basis. It is vital that we detect, monitor and treat any disease outbreak as quickly and efficiently as possible," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said (Los Angeles Times, 1/30). HHS also plans to use a portion of the funds to strengthen laboratories, according to Reuters/Washington Times. The FDA is expected to receive $5 million, which would go toward efforts to coordinate with Homeland Security and improve food surveillance. Homeland Security plans to use the funding to expand and upgrade the BioWatch detection system for biological warfare agents (Reuters/Washington Times, 1/30). BioWatch has been implemented in 30 cities nationwide, and the department intends to increase monitoring to more than 60 cities in 2005 (Los Angeles Times, 1/30). In addition, the department aims to create faster, more accurate BioWatch detectors that provide instantaneous results without sending samples to laboratories for analysis. Homeland Security also plans to create a system that would integrate surveillance data across the government (Reuters/Washington Times, 1/30). Some of the public health funds would be used to develop vaccines and to increase smallpox prevention and control efforts (Los Angeles Times, 1/30).
In related news, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention on Thursday that the Bush administration will include $60 million in its budget to fight the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- or mad cow disease -- by creating a national cattle identification system and increasing inspections and testing for mad cow disease, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports. Of the funds, $33 million will be spent on the identification system, $17 million will be used to collect 40,000 samples for mad cow tests at farms and rendering plants, and the rest will be spend for food and grain inspections and test development (Rushlo, AP/Wichita Eagle, 1/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.