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H1N1 reveals weaknesses, report concludes

The swine flu pandemic may turn out to be less severe than many had feared, but the H1N1 virus has revealed disturbing weaknesses in the nation's defenses against public health emergencies, according to a new report.

The report, released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health, a private non-profit think tank, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that 20 states scored six or less on ten key measures of preparedness. Nearly two-thirds of states scored seven or less. The measures included the ability to track available hospital beds as well having sufficient antiviral drugs, laboratory capacity and medical workers in reserve.

Seven states tied for the highest score of nine: Arkansas, Delaware, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Vermont, according to the report entitled Ready or Not? Montana had the lowest score--just three out of 10.

The District scored eight out of 10 while Maryland and Virginia scored seven out of 10.

While investments in pandemic and public health preparedness over the last several years did significantly improve the nation's ability to respond to the swine flu pandemic, decades of chronically underfunding public health departments have taken their toll in areas such as disease surveillance, laboratory testing and vaccine production, the report found.

Twenty-seven states cut funding for public health between 2007 and 2009, 13 states have purchased less than half their share of federally subsidized antiviral drugs to stockpile for a flu pandemic, and 13 states do not have the ability to guarantee quick pick-up and delivery of lab samples. In addition, 12 states and the District do not have enough laboratory staff to work five 12-hour days for six to eight weeks in response to an outbreak such as H1N1, the report found.

By Rob Stein  |  December 16, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Food Safety and Recalls , General Health , Health Policy , Hospitals , Influenza , Vaccinations  
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We all know how we hate traveling in public transit where we have to breathe in others people stinky arm pits. Especially if we have to breathe in when they are sneezing or coughing. So I came up with a product idea and wanted to know your feedback. I have created a survey to gauge the product’s utility value and would really appreciate your input. Thank you all !

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Posted by: MichelleRand | December 16, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

For some reason, funding public health doesn't get you nearly as many votes as funding prisons.

We get the country we deserve.

Posted by: DupontJay | December 17, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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