States getting funds for disease surveillance, bioterror efforts

The Health and Human Services Department will provide $1.4 billion to bolster the response by all state and local governments to terrorism and other public health emergencies, HHS secretary Tommy Thompson said yesterday.

The total includes $870 million the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will spend this year to improve state and local disease surveillance and other strategies to strengthen public health preparedness against bioterrorism and other outbreaks.

'Our combined efforts will result in a stronger system to care for Americans in emergencies, whether it be a bioterror attack or an infectious disease outbreak like SARS or West Nile virus,' Thompson said.

HHS is spending a total of $3.5 billion in 2003 for bioterrorism preparedness, including research into potential biological agents that could be used as bioterror weapons as well as potential treatments and vaccines.

Besides surveillance, the funds will improve infectious disease investigations, hospital readiness to deal with large numbers of casualties and expand public health laboratory and communications capacities. HHS also wants to increase connectivity between hospitals, and city, local and state health departments to enhance disease reporting.

The funds are to be used for readiness assessment, surveillance and epidemiology, biological lab capacity, chemical lab capacity, communications technology, health information dissemination, education and training and smallpox preparedness planning.

About $500 million comes from HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration for states to develop surge capacity in health care facilities to deal with mass casualty events.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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