Ranking States Emergency Preparedness

Seven states, including Florida and Massachusetts, have not yet taken part in a federal program to buy antivirals to ward off a potential influenza pandemic.

A report by a research group, the Trust for America's Health, also shows 13 other states do not have adequate plans to distribute vaccines and medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.

But seven other states, including Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have performed well enough in each of ten categories to earn top ratings in the study. The states scoring the lowest include Arkansas, Mississippi and Nevada.

Last year, Virginia scored eight out of ten, with the report finding the state would run out of hospital beds within two weeks of a moderately severe influenza pandemic outbreak. Virginia also lost a point last year for having a nursing shortage.

This year's report used a different set of indicators to measure states' performance and did not count the number of hospital beds or analyze nursing shortages.

The report gives West Virginia a score of eight out of ten. The Mountain State is also listed in the Trust for America's Health report as one of 13 states without adequate plans to distribute vaccines and medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.

The report, released Tuesday, also cites West Virginia for not having access to an around-the-clock laboratory to analyze samples.

West Virginia is named as one of more than half the states that haven't purchased all the antivirals they're entitled to buy under a federal program.
The report says West Virginia has used 58 percent of its federally subsidized allocation so far to purchase about 110,000 antiviral treatment courses.

The Bush administration has encouraged the states to stock up on antivirals such as Tamiflu and Relenza. In one program, the federal government pays a quarter of the costs, with the states paying the rest out of an investment fund that contains about $680 million.

A Health and Human Services Department spokesman says the states have until June of 2008 to place their orders. Bill Hall adds that states that are not buying the antivirals "are putting their own citizens at risk."

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