U.S. Not Ready for Major Disease Outbreaks, Study Suggests

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Disease OutbreaksA new report suggests that as many as half of all U.S. states are not properly prepared to respond to a disease outbreak. With new threats, such as antibiotic resistant superbugs and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), researchers have found that more efforts are needed by each state if they hope to protect their residents.

Washington, D.C., and 28 other states were rated poorly when it came to preventing, detecting, diagnosing, and responding to infectious disease outbreaks. Infectious disease kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, yet only 23 states received a grade over five on a 10 point scale.

The report, released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, suggested that the U.S. doesn’t adequately invest in basic protections that could help avoid outbreaks and save in unnecessary healthcare costs.

Some of the measurements used to determine the level of preparedness of each state included childhood and flu vaccinations, food safety, and HIV/AIDS rates. New York, Maine, Delaware, Kentucky, and Virginia were the top scoring States with a grade of eight. Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, Utah, and Idaho were all at the bottom with scores of three.

Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH, noted that the “overuse of antibiotics and underuse of vaccinations,” have left substantial gaps in the country’s ability to prepare for infectious disease threats.

“We cannot afford to continue to be complacent. Infectious diseases — which are largely preventable — disrupt the lives of millions of Americans and contribute to billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs each year,” Levi added.

The TFAH suggests an increase in funding to public health departments is necessary.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Preidt, R., “More Than Half of U.S. States Not Well Prepared for Disease Outbreaks: Study,” Philly.com, December 20, 2015; http://www.philly.com/philly/health/HealthDay706229_20151217_More_Than_Half_of_U_S__States_Not_Well_Prepared_for_Disease_Outbreaks__Study.html.
Frej, W., “Your State Likely Can’t Handle An Infectious Disease Outbreak,” The Huffington Post web site, December 18, 2015; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/infectious-disease-preparedness-us_56743d5fe4b06fa6887d1cc5.