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Perceptions of state public health officers and state veterinarians regarding risks of bioterrorism in the United States

R. Steven TharrattDivision of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA 95817.

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James T. CaseDepartment of Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, West Health Sciences Dr, Davis, CA 95617.

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 DVM, PhD
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David W. HirdDepartment of Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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Abstract

Objective—To assess perceptions of state public health officers and state veterinarians in the United States regarding the risks of bioterrorism and determine the degree of support provided for activities related to bioterrorism.

Design—Cross-sectional survey.

Sample Population—State public health officers and state veterinarians.

Procedure—A questionnaire was sent between April and June 2001 to the state public health officer and state veterinarian in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Results—Perceptions of the risk of bioterrorism attacks were similar for state public health officers and state veterinarians. Veterinarians perceived the risks associated with foot-and-mouth disease and Newcastle disease to be higher than did physicians. State veterinarians perceived the risks associated with an anthrax hoax, brucellosis, and ricin toxicosis to be lower than did state public health officers. Risk posed by agents that affected animals exclusively was perceived to be higher than risk posed by agents that affected humans exclusively and zoonotic agents. Number of full-time-equivalent positions devoted to bioterrorism surveillance and percentage of the budget devoted to bioterrorism activities were significantly lower for offices run by state veterinarians than for offices run by state public health officers. State veterinarians were significantly less likely to be aware of actual bioterrorism incidents within their state or district than were state public health officers.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Provision of additional resources to state veterinarians and explicit integration of their expertise and surveillance capabilities may be important to effectively mitigate the risk of bioterrorism. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220:1782–1787)

Abstract

Objective—To assess perceptions of state public health officers and state veterinarians in the United States regarding the risks of bioterrorism and determine the degree of support provided for activities related to bioterrorism.

Design—Cross-sectional survey.

Sample Population—State public health officers and state veterinarians.

Procedure—A questionnaire was sent between April and June 2001 to the state public health officer and state veterinarian in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Results—Perceptions of the risk of bioterrorism attacks were similar for state public health officers and state veterinarians. Veterinarians perceived the risks associated with foot-and-mouth disease and Newcastle disease to be higher than did physicians. State veterinarians perceived the risks associated with an anthrax hoax, brucellosis, and ricin toxicosis to be lower than did state public health officers. Risk posed by agents that affected animals exclusively was perceived to be higher than risk posed by agents that affected humans exclusively and zoonotic agents. Number of full-time-equivalent positions devoted to bioterrorism surveillance and percentage of the budget devoted to bioterrorism activities were significantly lower for offices run by state veterinarians than for offices run by state public health officers. State veterinarians were significantly less likely to be aware of actual bioterrorism incidents within their state or district than were state public health officers.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Provision of additional resources to state veterinarians and explicit integration of their expertise and surveillance capabilities may be important to effectively mitigate the risk of bioterrorism. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220:1782–1787)