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Triage: Flu Outbreak Saps Public Health Resources/ WSJ

Posted Dec 11 2009 12:00am
The profligate use of public health resources has not been confined to the billions spent on Tamiflu and swine flu vaccines. The Wall Street Journal points out that public health staff around the US have been "forced to cut back on childhood immunization clinics, restaurant inspections and planning anti-obesity programs to get the H1N1 job done." The WSJ further notes that 25,000 US public health jobs were eliminated or had hours reduced between mid 2008 and mid 2009.
"H1N1 has come at a bad time for the public health system," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "State and local health departments are doing a terrific job overall in responding," he said in an interview. But they are suffering from years of underinvestment, layoffs and hiring freezes, he said...

In Maine, which is still experiencing a surge of swine-flu cases, state health officials are reserving home visits by public health nurses only for major threats such as tuberculosis or child-abuse cases, said Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. About three-quarters of the department's staff has been diverted to H1N1. Some chronic-disease programs have "taken a back seat" for the time being, she said.
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