GAO says US has been slow to implement biosurveillance strategy
The Obama administration has been slow to take recommended and promised steps toward a coordinated national biosurveillance strategy, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released yesterday.
Following an earlier GAO recommendation, the administration released its National Strategy for Biosurveillance in July 2012, the report notes. The White House was to issue an implementation plan within 120 days of that, but it still had not done so as of last month, the GAO said.
The GAO, Congress's investigative arm, also faulted the administration's efforts on food and agriculture disease surveillance.
The report noted that in 2011 the GAO said the administration lacked coordination of efforts to implement the national food and agriculture defense policy, spelled out in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 (HSPD-9), which includes food and agriculture disease surveillance. In addition, the GAO said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had no overall strategy for handling its HSPD-9 responsibilities
Since then, the National Security Council has begun holding interagency meetings on HSPD-9 measures, and a report on the activities is expected this summer, the GAO reported. It said that by February of this year the USDA had analyzed its HSPD-9 efforts but had not developed an overall strategy.
The GAO also said the USDA's Animal and Plant Health inspection Service (APHIS) has broadened its disease surveillance program but has made only limited progress on aligning the program with overall national biosurveillance efforts.
Jul 8 GAO report on biosurveillance
Anthrax lab snafu update: 85 US labs now involved, Italy joins list
The number of US labs that were mistakenly sent live samples of Bacillus anthracis—the bacterium that causes anthrax—has increased by 7, to 85, and Italy has been added to the list of foreign countries affected, the Department of Defense (DoD) said in an update today.
The commercial, academic, and federal labs are in 20 states and the District of Columbia. They received live samples from the Dugway Proving Ground's Life Science Test Facility in Utah after insufficient methods were used to inactivate the bacteria. The DoD on Jun 29 had listed 78 labs.
In addition, labs in Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, Canada, and now Italy have received live B anthracis from the Utah facility. The biosafety lapse was first reported on May 28.
The DoD also said that 22 lab personnel are receiving post-exposure drugs as a precaution against anthrax, 15 of whom work for the DoD. Those numbers are down from 31 and 23, respectively.
Jul 9 DoD update
Jun 30 CIDRAP News scan on previous update