Frist, Satcher Discuss Public Health System Response to Bioterrorism on PBS
Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher spoke on PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" Oct. 15 on the public health response to the recent anthrax reports. After a recap of the recent developments, Satcher and Frist discussed how the public health system is preparing for a bioterrorism attack. Satcher said the "best defense" against bioterrorism is a "very strong health infrastructure" that includes not only the CDC but also "strong state and local health departments." He added that bioterrorism defense requires that members of the public are "informed about the reality of the risk and how to minimize it" without "panicking." Satcher said the administration is "taking the right approach" by asking for $1.5 billion to increase the stockpile of vaccines and antibiotics for anthrax, smallpox and other diseases. Frist added that while it is important to "put emphasis" on stockpiling drugs, many biological weapons beyond anthrax exist, and it is "absolutely critical" that "we develop a coherent, comprehensive strategy to fight bioweapons," focusing on supporting the overall public health infrastructure. While $1.5 billion could "fil[l] most of the gaps" in the public health system, Frist added, "We do need to make sure that it's distributed in such a way that you look at intelligence and prevention and responsiveness." At the state and local levels, Frist said, physicians must be trained to handle bioterrorism and communicate with one another. Satcher added that doctors are the "front line" and "must not only report but also must counsel patients." He concluded, "The appropriate response is not to write a prescription for Cipro because somebody is worried. The appropriate response is to educate [patients] and to support them" ("News Hour with Jim Lehrer," 10/15). A transcript of the interview is available at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/july-dec01/anthrax_10-15.html.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.