A Potential Public Health Nightmare
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A scientist looking through a microscopeUnfortunately, we’ve become more familiar with Ebola, MERS, and Zika – viruses that dominated recent headlines. These viruses have been around for years. What’s different now is that they’re no longer isolated in a small part of the world, but threaten to spread to the U.S. and around the globe. Add that to microbes that plague us right here such as the flu, whooping cough, and antibiotic superbugs.

Our public health infrastructure should buffer us, but a new report raises red flags. Alarmingly, out of ten key indicators for a state’s ability to manage infectious diseases, over half the states failed.

The report looked at public health funding, flu vaccine rates, HIV surveillance, childhood immunization rates, food safety, central line bloodstream infection in hospitals, and the staffing and training of our state labs. Only 20 states met the target for childhood immunization even as measles and whooping cough cases increase yearly.

It’s depressing because both were nearly eliminated decades ago. Eleven states failed to meet national standards for testing for E. coli O157 despite almost 50 million Americans sickened by food borne illness each year. And 16 states failed to even maintain stable funding of public health over the past two years. In all, 28 states failed to reach half the targets which could lead to public health disasters in the future. You can see how your state fared here. Most infectious diseases are preventable.

It’ll be way less costly to take steps now to prevent, detect and limit infectious diseases than to face a major outbreak and treating people after they’ve gotten sick.