CDC SAYS THEY'RE PREPARED TO HANDLE BIOTERRORISM



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Last Updated

29 Nov 2002

Source: CNN, August 28, 2002.

CDC says they're prepared to handle bioterrorism

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is better prepared to handle the threat of terrorism following the September 11 attacks.

CDC director Julie Gerberding said September 11 changed the world. Then, less than a month later, the nation was thrust into the height of the anthrax scare.

"The world changed for all of us, including the CDC," Gerberding said a conference Tuesday on terrorism preparedness. "We learned a lot of lessons last fall. We have been scaling up ... and streamlining our operation. We're better prepared than we were a year ago, but we are not done yet."

According to officials, $918 million will be used next year for improvements to state and local health departments. The West Nile virus outbreak, now identified in 20 states and the nation's capital, has been an opportunity to practice public health response and implement operations, communications and leadership strategies similar to those that would be used in terrorist attacks.

Though the agency has stepped up its level of terrorism preparedness, it hasn't forsaken other public health concerns, Gerberding added.

"We are not taking away from other programs to enhance our terrorism efforts," Gerberding said. "We are not complacent about the threats we face. We're building terrorist capacity on the foundation of public health."

Improvements have been made to areas of radiation risks, chemical residues, drug stockpiles, and emergency response, CDC officials said. Priority has been placed on education for health care workers regarding anthrax, smallpox and other diseases.

"The anthrax attack was unprecedented, and could've been much worse and more complicated, but we're putting the lessons we learned from that to use," said James Hughes, director of the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases.

Kathleen Rest, Deputy Director of CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said the World Trade Center and anthrax attacks also highlighted the importance of worker safety and health.

"These people face illness, injury and death on the job, and it's up to us to make sure emergency responders have the tools they need to protect themselves and do their jobs," she said.