Kennedy, Frist Ask Bush to Fund 2000 Bioterrorism Law
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) are asking President Bush to allocate funding for a $540 million bioterrorism bill (S 2731) that President Clinton signed into law last November, the Boston Globe reports. The bill, part of a package called the "Public Health Improvement Act" (HR 2498), calls for $99 million to assess and upgrade public health agencies' ability to detect, diagnose and contain disease outbreaks, as well as $180 million toward a $1 billion renovation of CDC laboratories, among other components. To date, the only funding that has been provided amounts to a "little more than a portion" of the CDC upgrade. In a letter to Bush, Kennedy asked for up to $1 billion to "accelerate work and programs authorized by the law." Kennedy and Frist told Bush, "In light of (the Sept. 11) attacks, we believe that it is time to fund this legislation and continue to build upon our knowledge of the best way to proceed." They added, "As your administration takes additional steps to respond to the events of last week, we hope you will bear in mind the special challenges posed by biological weapons" (Johnson, Boston Globe, 9/21).
In the wake of the attacks last week, some local and state health authorities such as those in Maryland are boosting their efforts to prepare for bioterrorism, the Baltimore Sun reports. In Maryland, officials have begun tracking symptoms of people brought to hospitals by ambulance and of others who use emergency rooms. The reason for such surveillance is to detect "sharp increases" in symptoms such as respiratory or gastrointestinal problems, which are "typical reactions to" some agents used in bioterrorism. Officials also are considering tracking purchases of over-the-counter medicines typically used to treat such symptoms. In addition, officials have put physicians and labs "on alert," have considered stockpiling drug supplies and have met with hospitals, fire departments, police and emergency medical personnel to "beef up coordination" and ensure they are properly trained (Sugg, Baltimore Sun, 9/21).