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Archive for Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Bioterror funds roll in

Kansas agencies get money for improvements

October 1, 2002

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— The logo representing Kansas' response to the threat of bioterrorism shows a man riding a speeding horse.

Somehow, image hasn't caught up with reality.

Since 9-11, the state has been showered with federal funds for homeland security, and that money is going toward a high-tech alert and warning system one that doesn't include messengers on horseback.

Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, laughed when asked about the logo on the agency's Web site, and she said she didn't know where it came from. "We're in the process of redoing that," she said.

More than the logo is changing at KDHE in the post-Sept. 11 world.

In June, the agency received $11 million to address the threat of bioterrorism. That was up from $850,000 the agency received from the federal Centers for Disease Control for its public health program in the previous year more than a 13-fold increase.

And the projection is that such funding levels will become the norm for years to come.

Earlier this month, the Kansas Highway Patrol received $4.1 million to enhance its ability to respond to attacks involving biological, chemical or nuclear explosions.

So while state tax revenues continue to slump, the influx of federal funds for homeland security is bankrolling needed improvements in the state's emergency preparations, officials say.

Mindee Reece, bioterrorism director for KDHE, said that since 9-11, preparation for further attacks has been necessary even in low-population Kansas.

The Centers for Disease Control sent the Douglas County Health
Department this smallpox vaccination guide to help plan for
administering the vaccine in case a bioterrorism response is
needed. Kim Ens, coordinator for the city-county health department,
remembers being vaccinated as a child but has never given the
vaccine to a patient. Ens' agency will work with police and fire
departments to prepare a bioterrorism response plan for Douglas
County as part of a statewide effort.

The Centers for Disease Control sent the Douglas County Health Department this smallpox vaccination guide to help plan for administering the vaccine in case a bioterrorism response is needed. Kim Ens, coordinator for the city-county health department, remembers being vaccinated as a child but has never given the vaccine to a patient. Ens' agency will work with police and fire departments to prepare a bioterrorism response plan for Douglas County as part of a statewide effort.

"The terrorists look for symbols. I look at the Midwest as the heartland, the breadbasket of America," Reece said.

The state must be ready for an attack within its own borders and on guard for attacks that could be unleashed elsewhere but easily spread to Kansas. And, she said, the consequences of a false threat or hoax could be just as devastating as a real event.

Most of the money flowing to the state is being spent on upgrading communications systems and improving state laboratories. A statewide bioterrorism-response plan is to be in place by January.

The state now is capable of sending information and messages, via pagers and a secure Internet system, to alert community health officials statewide about any threat or need for heightened security. The goal is to be able to communicate with state health officials quickly and at all times.

The system was used recently to inform officials about the spread of West Nile virus.














County health systems, including the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, are also receiving more money for safety.

Kim Ens, disease control program coordinator for the local health department, said this year $111,000 was being used to increase training and upgrade communication systems.

"Basically those are the two main things, so that our staff knows what to do if there is a bioterrorism threat," she said.

Reece said the state also was preparing plans that would facilitate the deployment of medical supplies in an emergency. It may seem like a large expense and a lot of preparation, she said, but it is necessary in today's world.

"We need to realize that if a communicable disease is released in one state, it could easily travel to Kansas," she said.

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