Iowa’s public-health director joined others at a multi-state summit on bio-terrorism yesterday. The governor of Nebraska’s put money on the table proposing an alliance to provide mutual aid in the event of a bio-terrorist attack or other public-health emergency. Governor Mike Johanns says he’s proposing ten states form the alliance. He says if there’s a major bioterrorism outbreak and thousands of blood samples need to be tested, that could be done at Iowa State University, but if it’s a food-poisoning outbreak, that testing might be done at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Nebraska’s governor admits that is a theoretical situation, but he was joined in a meeting this week by officials from Iowa, Kansas and Missouri — and six more states also have agreed to the concept of the alliance. The whole idea’s instead of building 10 labs in ten states, we join forces to build capabilities throughout the region that would meet the needs of a bio-terror threat. And Johanns has put 200-thousand dollars from the enters for Disease Control up to support the ten-state effort. He says big states command the lion’s share of Homeland Security funding and that’s why smaller ones will benefit from sharing their resources. Johanns says Iowa and Nebraska are among major suppliers of food to the whole world. He says the next step is to look around and take stock of the assets each state has to contribute. And Governor Johanns says they’ll have to set up protocols, plans to deal with “nitty gritty details,” he says. He says if something happens in Council Bluffs, on the Nebraska-Iowa border, Nebraska doctors should be able to respond without worrying about liability issues or practicing in a state where they’re not licensed. Johanns says nobody’s created this kind of alliance anywhere in the country, and he hopes this will be a national model for cooperating and responding to attacks. The proposal drew praise from Charles Schable, director of the Office of Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response in the C-D-C Schable says he’s been at the C-D-C for 37 years and in emergency preparedness and coordination for many years, and he says this state’s stepped forward to do a job that’s “remarkable.” Doctor Steven Hinrichs is director of the Nebraska Public Health Library at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and he said the alliance will help states cope with other emergencies like an outbreak of West Nile Virus. In the long run it means better preparedness and not just for bioterrorism. He says he’s certain there will be a big influenza outbreak “at some time in our lifetime,” and we’d better be ready. Iowa’s state health director Mary Mincer Hansen was at the meeting with officials from Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. The ten-state alliance would also include North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Montana.
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