The top doctor in Iowa’s public health department has told federal officials Iowa needs 11-and-a-half million dollars to respond to bio-terrorism threats. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, testified before a U-S Senate panel and warned the nation’s public health system is “fragmented, ill-equipped and seriously understaffed.” Quinlisk says there need to be more and better-trained lab workers, and more epidemiologists to detect, investigate and stop epidemics. Quinlisk says Iowa should hire a minimum of 25 more people to bolster the system for dealing with epidemics, like a bioterrorist attack. She says there is only one person in Iowa to coordinate the things needed to handle a terrorist attack. She says finding and attracting people to train and fill the positions will be difficult.Quinlisk says Iowa’s public health lab needs better equipment and more staff training. Quinlisk also says the state needs to build a speedy and secure communications system to report health threats.Quinlisk says the build-up would not only benefit Iowans in the event of a bioterrorist attack, but when there’s an outbreak of a dangerous flu or when something like the West Nile virus is discovered in Iowa. Quinlisk is former president of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and is a consultant on bioterrorism preparedness.
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