TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

TFAH report finds gaps in U.S. ability to counter infectious diseases

The ability of the U.S. to prevent and control infectious disease outbreaks is hampered by limited resources and outdated systems, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

The report, which was developed by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that 34 states score five or lower out of 10 key indicators of the capabilities and policies necessary to protect against infectious disease threats. The three states tied for the lowest score, two out of 10 possible indicators, were New Jersey, Nebraska and Georgia.

New Hampshire had the highest score of all the states with eight out of 10 indicators.

"From antibiotic-resistant superbugs to Salmonella to the seasonal flu, infectious diseases disrupt lives and communities," Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of TFAH, said. "Fighting these diseases requires constant vigilance. The bad news is that we found major gaps in the country's ability to prevent, control and treat outbreaks, leaving Americans at an unacceptable level of unnecessary risk."

The Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases report found that one-third of states do not require healthcare facilities to report healthcare-associated infections, only one quarter of states vaccinated at least half their population against seasonal flu and only Connecticut, Delaware and Washington DC meet a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services goal of vaccinating at least 90 percent of preschoolers against whooping cough.

The report issued a series of recommendations to address the gaps, including strengthening fundamental capabilities, countering antibiotic resistance, increasing vaccinations and screenings, modernizing disease surveillance, supporting policies to reduce HAIs, improving coordination on new diseases, shoring up preparedness capabilities and countering complacency around tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS.