Most states fall short on infectious-disease preparedness

A majority of states remain ill-equipped to effectively respond to an infectious-disease outbreak, according to the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). The findings raise concerns as the numbers of healthcare-acquired and sexually-transmitted infections continue to rise.

Despite heightened attention to the threat of infectious disease as a result of theEbola epidemic in West Africa, as many as 28 states were identified as having five or fewer indicators out of 10 related to their readiness to monitor, detect, diagnose or prevent a potential infectious-disease outbreak, according to this year’s annual report (PDF) from the not-for-profit organization. The results were similar to those reported last year, when a total of 25 states had five or fewer disease-preparedness indicators.

“The country’s interest in infectious diseases tends to ebb and flow,” said Jeffrey Levi, the organization’s executive director. “When there’s a new, scary threat like Ebola last year, there’s a major ramp-up. But once there’s a sense that the outbreak is contained, we fall back to a place of complacency.”

While the TFAH report found that most states and the District of Columbia had systems in place to track HIV/AIDS and detect cases of E. coli in food, only nine had significantly decreased their rates of central-line-associated bloodstream infections acquired in healthcare facilities between 2012 and 2013.

Only 18 states were identified as having vaccinated at least half their population for influenza last season, although that marked an increase over the 2013-2014 season, when only 14 states vaccinated at least half their populations against the flu.

The findings are of particular concern in light of a recent rise in the number of cases of sexually-transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis, which have seen an uptick after years of decline.

The ongoing threat posed by the growing number of antimicrobial-resistant “superbug” infections brought on by antibiotic overuse was identified by the report’s researchers as an area where states need to focus greater attention, as well as addressing climate change as it relates to its impact on infectious disease.

The Obama administration unveiled plans this year to address the effects of climate change and the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Under the “National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria,” (PDF)announced in March, the White House called for strengthening national surveillance, and accelerating the development of new antibiotics to significantly reduce the rates of such resistant infections by 2020.

By Steven Ross Johnson

Source: Modern Healthcare – http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20151217/NEWS/151219879