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As General Accounting Office Warns We Aren't Prepared for a Bioterror Attack, Centers Fordisease Control in Atlanta Are Placed Under Gag Order

October 04, 2001

Laurie Garrett writes in Newsday:

"With public anxiety about bioterrorism on the rise, gas mask sales soaring and talk shows rife with alarming claims,the head of the federal department of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, said America is prepared to dealwith any kind of biological attack."

“But public health experts throughout the nation say [his] comments, made on the CBS show "60 Minutes", don’t reflecta 2-week long gag order that’s kept them from getting specific information about preparedness from such agencies asthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, leading to confusion and concern."Though there’s no specific evidence that any bioterrorism agents have been, or will be, used in the New York region,officials prepared for the worst-case scenario yesterday, reviewing security and, in some cases, tightening it.

The General Accounting Office warns that the federal capacity to respond to a bioterrorism attack is fragmented andunder funded. The GAO report describes a government that lacks a clear line of authority over the planning process.At least seven executive branch departments have bioterrorism programs, and an estimated $156 million was spent onbioterrorism programs in 2001. But the report said that the fragmentation among these programs is so extensive thatno two departments even share a common list of the pathogens most likely to be used as biological weapons.


  • Laurie Garrett, Newsday reporter and author of "Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global PublicHealth."

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