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Highlights

Recent challenges, such as the SARS outbreak and the anthrax incidents in the fall of 2001, have raised concerns about the nation's preparedness for a large-scale infectious disease outbreak or bioterrorism event. In order to be adequately prepared for such a major public health threat, state and local public health agencies need to have several basic capabilities, including disease surveillance systems, laboratory facilities, communication systems and a sufficient workforce. GAO was asked to examine the capacity of state and local public health agencies and hospitals to detect and report illnesses or conditions that may result from a large-scale infectious disease outbreak or bioterrorism event. This testimony is based largely on recent work, including a report on state and local preparedness for a bioterrorist attack; preliminary findings from current work on updates of bioterrorism preparedness at the state and local levels; and findings from a survey GAO conducted on hospital emergency department capacity and emergency preparedness.

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