Is Obsession with Bioterrorism Leaving U.S. Vulnerable to “Normal” Deadly Viruses?
The United States has spent more than $50 billion in recent years to defend against threats of bioterrorism, but in the process has left itself vulnerable to naturally occurring deadly diseases.
It is estimated that Washington, DC’s obsession with bioterrorism has cost the nation at least $60 billion so far, according to sociologist Allan McCoy of Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
This funding includes $8.4 billion allocated to Project Bioshield, created in 2004, which purchases vaccines for use following an attack involving smallpox, anthrax, and other weaponized pathogens.
Meanwhile, critical resources are being diverted away from public health initiatives designed to protect Americans against natural outbreaks of serious viruses. The result has been failures to fully respond to life-threatening pandemics, such as the 2009 swine flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated then that the U.S. needed 159 million doses of swine flu vaccine to inoculate pregnant women, healthcare professionals and other key groups. But the government could only provide 32 million doses.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation declared in a report that had the outbreak been worse in the U.S., “health departments nationwide would have been overwhelmed—in large part because of a lack of money,” McCoy wrote.
He also notes that research funding on infectious diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis, has been redirected into work on rare viruses, such as anthrax and tularemia, because of their potential use by bioterrorists.
Other foreign outbreaks continue to pose a potential threat to the U.S. population, McCoy says, including avian flu in Australia and China, as well as the Middle East respiratory syndrome, a SARS-like virus, in Saudi Arabia.
To Learn More:
Emphasis on Bioterror Can Limit Efforts Needed To Fight Viruses (by Allan McCoy, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Preoccupation with Bioterrorism Hobbles Preparations for Natural Spread of Deadly Viruses (Homeland Security News Wire)
320,000 Undetected Animal Viruses Provide Potential Source of Human Infection (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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