Groups: U.S. Not Ready for Virus

August 17, 2003
by Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times

A recent report by Trust for America's Health criticizes what it calls the government's piecemeal approach to preventing and controlling West Nile and other diseases. The nation lacks a concerted national approach to prevent and control West Nile and other emerging animal-borne diseases, according to Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, and Dr. Shelly Hearne, executive director of Trust for America's Health. The Aug. 5 report was issued a little more than a week before El Paso health authorities revealed nine more suspected cases of West Nile in the El Paso area. The report examines the public-health response to five animal-borne diseases: West Nile virus, monkeypox, mad cow disease, Lyme disease and chronic wasting disease. "Our national policy toward animal-borne diseases is the equivalent of trying to run a zoo without a zookeeper," Hearne said. "How many wake-up calls do we need before we take action? With West Nile virus back stronger than ever this year, the detection of mad cow disease in Canada in May, and the emergence of monkeypox and SARS, you'd think we'd get it. We need a strong, proactive approach to deal with these diseases."

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