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How prepared is Alabama for an infectious disease outbreak?

Disease Control

A new report released by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) places Alabama about middle of the pack among states when it comes to preventing, detecting, diagnosing and responding to outbreaks, like Ebola, Enterovirus and antibiotic-resistant Superbugs.

The report, “Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases,” finds that the recent Ebola scare exposes serious underlying gaps in the nation’s ability to manage severe infectious disease threats.

Half of states, including Alabama, scored five or lower out of 10 key indicators. Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia tied for the top score — achieving eight out of 10 indicators. Arkansas has the lowest score at two out of 10. The indicators are developed in consultation public health experts based on data from publicly available sources or information provided by public officials.

“Over the last decade, we have seen dramatic improvements in state and local capacity to respond to outbreaks and emergencies. But we also saw during the recent Ebola outbreak that some of the most basic infectious disease control policies failed when tested,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “The Ebola outbreak is a reminder that we cannot afford to let our guard down. We must remain vigilant in preventing and controlling emerging threats – like MERS-CoV, pandemic flu and Enterovirus — but not at the expense of ongoing, highly disruptive and dangerous diseases — seasonal flu, HIV/AIDS, antibiotic resistance and healthcare-associated infections.”

Categories in which Alabama achieved a strong score include:

Preparing for Emerging Threats: Alabama scored higher than the national average on the Incident & Information Management domain of the National Health Security Preparedness Index. The state also used a “real event” to evaluate the time for clinical labs to receive and respond to an urgent message from a public health lab.
Child Vaccinations: 90 percent of children ages 19-35 months received the recommended 3+ doses of HBV vaccine.
Food Safety: Alabama met the national performance target of testing 90 percent of reported Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 cases within four days.

Categories in which Alabama could improve include:

Healthcare-acquired Infections: In recent years, Alabama has performed below the national standardized infection ratio (SIR) for central line-associated bloodstream infections.
Vaccinations: The state did not vaccinate at least half of its population (ages 6 months and older) for the seasonal flu for fall 2013 to spring 2014.

Here’s how the Yellowhammer State stacked up again other states around the country in the 10 categories measured:

8 out of 10: Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee Vermont and Virginia
7 out of 10: California, Delaware, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
6 out of 10: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas
5 out of 10: Alabama, D.C., Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia
4 out of 10: Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Washington
3 out of 10: Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Wyoming
2 out of 10: Arkansas

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