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Emergency preparedness gets low marks in Idaho

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – A national study by the Trust for America’s Health puts Idaho near the bottom when it comes to public health emergency preparedness.

The eighth annual “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism” covers nearly 10 years of improvements in how the country responds to disease outbreaks and bioterrorism threats following the Sept. 11 attacks and anthrax deaths.

The Times-News reports that out of a possible 10 points, Idaho scored six points, tied with eight other states but better than the five points received by both Montana and Iowa.

The report released in December said Idaho lost points for not increasing or maintaining funding for public health programs and not requiring child-care facilities to have evacuation plans.

The report also found Idaho wasn’t able to identify sources of E. coli bacteria fast enough to prevent an outbreak.

South Central Public Health District Director Rene LeBlanc said the state has been working on improving the state laboratory’s capabilities.

“The lab identified its needs and it received an infrastructure grant three months ago that wouldn’t show up in this report,” LeBlanc told the Times-News.

The report also said Idaho doesn’t have the ability to detect health threats from bioterrorism attacks, such as mailings of anthrax.

Idaho’s point total is up from the two points the state received in 2003. While states have improved, the report found budget cuts could cause a decrease in preparedness.