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Hit With Budget Cuts, NJ Bio Terror Threat Real [AUDIO]

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Is New Jersey prepared for a possible anthrax attack or pandemic flu outbreak? A new report by Trust For America’s Health shows major cuts to federal and state funding are threatening the state’s ability to respond to bio terror attacks.

“Over the last year New Jersey has cut funds to public health by 15%. Trenton is one of the cities at risk for elimination of money that would help it rapidly distribute vaccines during emergencies” said Rich Hamburg, deputy director of Trust For America’s Health.

Hamburg says the bit of good news is that preparedness had been on an upward trajectory in recent years., “This is our ninth report and when things were good nationwide, programs were being funded, we saw that a lot of states over the last few years had picked up flu pandemic plans in which many did not have them at all.

The report says:

– In the past year, 40 states and the District of Columbia have cut funds to public health.

– Since 2008, state health agencies have lost 14,910 people through layoffs or attrition; local health departments have lost 34,400.

– Federal PHEP grants – Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants – were cut 27 percent between fiscal 2005 and 2011, when adjusted for inflation.

– Some 51 cities are at risk for elimination of Cities Readiness Initiative funds, which support the rapid distribution of vaccinations and medications during emergencies.

But the concern is that because of the economic crisis, New Jersey might not be as prepared today as it was a few years ago.

“The East Coast is doing much better than a lot of other places, but at some point…and I think we are there now…there will be choices that have to be made. Do we fund 7 of these programs or 10?…and the ones that get cut or lose funding can have a real impact on the public’s health.”

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