CDC Officials Outline Steps Taken To Improve Bioterrorism Preparedness
CDC officials said last week that over the past year the agency has taken steps to improve preparedness for a bioterrorist attack, including opening new laboratories, adding antibiotics and vaccines to its stockpiles and teaching health care professionals and epidemiologists how to respond to an attack, the New York Times reports. Officials also said that they "made it a priority" to upgrade the CDC emergency response operations center (Altman, New York Times, 8/28). The agency also has improved its monitoring of emergency rooms, 911 calls and calls to poison-control centers and has hired experts to improve its communication with health officials and the public (Harris, Wall Street Journal, 8/28). However, although the CDC has made improvements, the HHS Secretary's Council on Public Health Preparedness, which is tasked with preparing the country for a potential bioterrorist attack, said after its first meeting last Tuesday that many U.S. communities are not ready for a bioterrorist attack. Members of the council raised concerns about several "unresolved" issues with the nation's smallpox vaccine policy, the lack of coordination between public and private health systems and the need for a "seamless" method to track diseases (Sternberg, USA Today, 8/28). The Defense Department is launching a two-year, $300 million pilot program to test the ability of monitoring and reporting systems to identify disease outbreaks. As part of the project, four cities will receive a medical surveillance system that will collect data from hospitals and doctors to search for symptom "spikes." The system also includes environmental monitors that will take air samples to test for biological agents (Hess, UPI/Washington Times, 8/28).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.