Baton Rouge --- A survey of the nation’s bioterrorism readiness ranked Louisiana as one of only 13 states to receive five out 10 key indicators that assess the state’s ability to respond to a bio-threat. Only nine other states received a higher score.
“Ready Or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health in the Age of Bioterrorism,” published through Trust for America’s Health, examined each state’s performance in 10 key categories designed to rate improvements along with areas that would be vulnerable in the event of a massive health emergency.
Louisiana was recognized for allocating federal dollars toward bioterrorism response capabilities, increasing or maintaining funding in public health programs, developing a biosafety lab, instituting a statewide emergency alert network and initiating a bioterrorism plan that could be used in the event of an attack.
Despite these improvements, the report concluded that Louisiana and the rest of the nation must continue upgrading bioterrorism programs to be prepared for an attack.
“We realize much work remains to be done in the effort to better prepare Louisiana for a bio-threat,” said LDH Secretary David W. Hood. “However, the committed individuals in our Office of Public Health already are working to upgrade our response capabilities. We are more prepared for a large-scale health emergency today than we were two years ago, and we intend to continue increasing preparedness for the future.”
State health officials already have plans in place and are working to be better prepared in the areas where Louisiana did not receive recognition, including a full test of its Strategic National Stockpile distribution plan. In addition to developing mass vaccination plans that extend to the regional and local levels for the distribution of stockpile supplies, the state will conduct a full-scale test of its Strategic National Stockpile plan in March. Officials are confident that upon completion of the drill, the federal government and state emergency responders will approve the state’s strategic stockpile plan.
This past August, the Office of Public Health held a full-scale, statewide immunization drill to test its mass vaccination plan that would be put into place in the event of a biological attack. The drill was successful, with more than 12,000 children receiving their necessary vaccinations.
State health officials also have used federal funding to enhance communication and planning with both public and private hospitals across the state, made key upgrades to the state health lab to enhance its bioterrorism capabilities and worked to enhance disease surveillance and reporting plans, based on the systems currently used to monitor West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis in the state.