GAO Identifies Gaps in CDC’s Bioterrorism Response Plans
The CDC's plan for responding to bioterrorist attacks contains several gaps, an investigator from the General Accounting Office told Congress yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. GAO public health specialist Janet Heinrich told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the CDC has "many unmet needs in upgrading state and local capacity to respond to a bioterrorist attack" (Nesmith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/16). In her statement to the committee, Heinrich said that while the CDC's funding for bioterrorism-related programs has increased 61% over the past two years, the percentage increases "reflect only a $73 million increase because many of the programs initially received small allocations." She added that the agency needs to bolster its bioterrorism research and increase its capacity to respond at the state and local level. She noted that even during the "relatively small" West Nile virus outbreak in New York last year, the CDC laboratory was so involved in testing that it could not have responded to another outbreak "had one occurred at the same time." Heinrich also said that the CDC should expand the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (Heinrich, "The CDC's Role in Public Health Protection," 11/15). To read Heinrich's statement, go to http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02235t.pdf. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat to view the statement.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said yesterday she has introduced a bill to give the CDC $1.5 billion over the next five years to increase its security measures and upgrade its laboratories in Atlanta. "The fight against bioterrorism is being waged by talented people working in shabby conditions. Power outages, cramped quarters and inadequate working facilities impair their abilities to find breakthrough cures and treatments," she said. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. John Linder (R-Ga.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/16).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.