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In the event of a large-scale infectious disease outbreak, as could be seen with a bioterrorist attack, hospitals and their emergency departments would be on the front line. Federal, state, and local officials are concerned, however, that hospitals may not have the capacity to accept and treat a sudden, large increase in the number of patients, as might be seen in a bioterrorist attack. In the Public Health Improvement Act that was passed in 2000, Congress directed GAO to examine preparedness for a bioterrorist attack. In this report GAO provides information on the extent of bioterrorism preparedness among hospitals in urban areas in the United States. To conduct this work, GAO surveyed over 2,000 urban hospitals and about 73 percent provided responses addressing emergency preparedness. The survey collected information on hospital preparedness for bioterrorism, such as data on planning activities, staff training, and capacity for response.

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