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Highlights

SARS has infected relatively few people nationwide, but it has raised concerns about preparedness for large-scale infectious disease outbreaks. The initial response to an outbreak occurs in local agencies and hospitals, with support from state and federal agencies, and can involve disease surveillance, epidemiologic investigation, health care delivery, and quarantine management. Officials have learned lessons applicable to preparedness for such outbreaks from experiences with other major public health threats. GAO was asked to examine the preparedness of state and local public health agencies and hospitals for responding to a large-scale infectious disease outbreak and the relationship of federal and state planning for an influenza pandemic to preparedness for emerging infectious diseases. This testimony is based on Bioterrorism: Preparedness Varied across State and Local Jurisdictions, GAO-03-373 (Apr. 7, 2003); findings from a GAO survey on hospital emergency room capacity (in Hospital Emergency Departments: Crowded Conditions Vary among Hospitals and Communities, GAO-03-460 (Mar. 14, 2003)) and on hospital emergency preparedness; and information updating Influenza Pandemic: Plan Needed for Federal and State Response, GAO-01-4 (Oct. 27, 2000).

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