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States Ill-Prepared for Ebola, Other Infectious Outbreaks

Ebola, mumps, other illnesses suggest public health systems need strengthening

FRIDAY, Dec. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Half of U.S. states are poorly prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. That was the main conclusion of a report issued jointly by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report ranks states based on 10 indicators of preparedness. The indicators include funding of public health efforts, vaccination rates, infection control at medical centers, attempts to prepare for climate change, and surveillance efforts to track cases of HIV and Escherichia coli.

According to the report, half the states scored 5 or lower on the list of 10 indicators. Five states tied for the top score. Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia all received a score of 8 out of 10. Arkansas has the lowest score at 2 out of 10. No state received a perfect ranking. States also did a particularly poor job of reducing infections of the blood caused by catheters placed into large veins during hospitalization. Just 10 states reduced the number of such infections between 2011 and 2012. Only 16 states performed better than the national baseline for these infections.

"Ebola has served as a major wake-up call to the United States," Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., executive director of the Trust for America's Health, told HealthDay. "It's a reminder that an infectious disease anywhere is a threat everywhere, and Ebola has raised attention to serious gaps in our ability to manage disease outbreaks and contain their spread. It was very disturbing that many of the most basic infectious disease controls failed when tested."

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