Even as Hurricane Katrina was demonstrating that the US government was
not ready for a major disaster, researchers announced findings they said suggested
that many public health agencies would not respond quickly to an infectious
disease outbreak that might occur from natural causes or bioterrorism.
Researchers affiliated with RAND Corp, a nonprofit research organization
based in Santa Monica, Calif, tested how quickly local public health agencies
in 18 states responded to a series of telephone calls regarding potential
infectious disease outbreaks and found “substantial variability in performance
and in the systems in place.” Of the 19 local agencies sampled, eight
consistently met the federal guideline of responding to such calls within
30 minutes, and only two of these immediately transferred all callers to an
official who could handle urgent case reports. Three of the agencies did not
respond to the first five calls they received. The findings were published
August 30 online in Health Affairs (http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w5.412/DC1).
Mitka M. Readiness of Local Public Health Agencies to Respond to Bioterrorism
Questioned. JAMA. 2005;294(15):1884–1889. doi:10.1001/jama.294.15.1884
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