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Report Says States Unready for Bioterror

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WASHINGTON, Dec 11, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- States are not ready to respond to a bioterrorism attack on the United States, according to a report released Thursday by a disease prevention advocacy group.

"The very simple answer here is: We are not ready," said Shelly Hearne, executive director of Trust for America's Health, which produced the report.

Trust for America's Health rated states' readiness to respond to a bioterror attack on a scale of 1 to 10. The group considered the funding and infrastructure of each state's public health system in its ratings.

The highest score it awarded was 7, which went to Florida, California, Maryland and Tennessee. The lowest score was 2 for Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Wisconsin and New Mexico.

Hearne said public health systems are chronically understaffed and undertrained, a problem reflected in the fact that only two state public health systems have met the federal standards required to distribute medication from the Federal Strategic Stockpile of drugs, which is saved for major emergencies.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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