January 26, 2005


Why Florida is No. 1 in bioterror readiness: The state has fine-tuned a distribution network for vaccines, notification procedures, and large-scale aid. (Richard Luscombe, 1/26/05, CS Monitor)

[F]lorida - a state all too familiar with emergency after four hurricanes battered it last year - may be emerging as a model for bioterror preparedness. But even its boosters caution that much still needs to be done to address areas of vulnerability.

"I'm pleased this recognizes the work we've done, but it isn't something that allows us to sit back because we are still nowhere near where we want to be," says John Agwunobi, Florida's health secretary.

Both Florida and North Carolina passed the grade in nine of the 10 categories that the Trust for America's Health (TFAH), an independent research group in Washington, used to assess each state's public-health readiness. In 2003, Florida scored seven out of 10. The state has scored highly, Mr. Agwunobi says, largely because of the strong public-health infrastructure it has developed, which maximizes resources.

Among such achievements is the state's coveted "green" status relating to the Strategic National Stockpile of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It means that Florida, the first of only five states to achieve such a grade, is deemed adequately prepared to distribute vaccines and antidotes in the event of a mass disease outbreak.

Last February, health personnel from each of the 67 counties took part in a large-scale exercise that simulated air passengers with bubonic plague arriving at various places in the state. The distribution test was passed.

Officials also point to the state's five-year public-health plan, which calls for additional resources to counter bioterror threats. For example, in the event of a biological, chemical, or radiological attack leading to mass casualties, Florida's hospitals will be able to manage emergency treatment for 500 people per 1 million of population, and they will be able to admit 50 patients per 1 million. Florida has almost 17 million residents.

In addition, each region will be able to isolate 10 patients showing symptoms of diseases like smallpox.

"Many states, if not most, don't have our kind of infrastructure," Agwunobi says.

Jeb Bush would be the odds-on favorite to be our next president even if he weren't one of the nation's best governors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 26, 2005 8:35 AM

Would a J.Bush/Rice ticket look appealing to any of you?

Posted by: Bartman at January 26, 2005 2:51 PM