Trust for America’s Health issued a report that measures how prepared each state is to handle an infectious disease outbreak.
Infectious disease outbreaks already cost the country $US120 billion every year, according to the report. And considering the recent outbreak in China of three new strains of bird flu, and a new SARS-like virus in the Middle East, things will probably only get worse.
We should probably be a little worried by the results: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most prepared to handle an outbreak, 33 states scored a five or lower.
Trust for America’s Health ranked the states by examining things like public health funding available in each state, lab capabilities for tracking outbreaks in each state, and the number of vaccines for preventable diseases each state gives. You can see where each state ranked on the map below:
New Hampshire is the most prepared, but if you’re living in Georgia, Nebraska, or New Jersey, you might be in trouble. The report’s authors acknowledge that each state is not entirely responsible for its ranking. Limited resources, policies, and lack of federal action all play a role.
Why did so many states rank so low? Here are some of the contributing factors:
- Two-thirds of the states decreased public health funding from 2012 to 2013. The CDC’s budget received a $US577 million cut this year.
- Antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases like Tuberculosis, Salmonella, and strep throat that cost the U.S. about $US20 billion in medical expenses every year.
- Emerging and re-emerging disease outbreaks like the West Nile Virus in 2012.
- Failure of states to change policies regarding climate change. Warmer weather means insects like mosquitoes and ticks that carry infectious diseases survive longer, and warmer weather can also contribute to more food-borne diseases.
- In the last year only about half of the states’ public health labs evaluated or tested the programs they have in place to respond to an emergency outbreak.
These are some of the infectious diseases that are still major problems in America:
About 20% of Americans get the seasonal flu each year and generate about $US10 billion in medical expenses. Most people are not getting the flu vaccine every year: Only about 42% of adults were vaccinated in 2012. That’s despite the CDC recommendation that all Americans 6 months and older get the vaccine.
Over 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV, and one in five don’t even know they have it (and that means they are more likely to spread it). Only 31 states have Medicaid plans that provide routine screening for HIV. It’s important for individuals to have access to HIV screening to prevent the spread of the disease.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
About 79 million Americans are carrying HPV and is a factor in 20,000 new cases of cancer in women and 12,000 new cases in men every year. Only 24 states require that teens get the HPV vaccine, though it has been shown to be very effective.
Hepatitis B and C
Around 5 million Americans have Hepatitis B or C, but almost 70% don’t know they have it. These diseases can cause serious liver problems and lead to cancer.
Both of these are preventable diseases but 3 million children each year still don’t receive the necessary vaccinations to protect them. When vaccination rates drop everyone is in danger, especially children who are too young to get vaccines themselves.
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