Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tularemia on the Mall: Heck of a job, Chertie

As reported elsewhere, the "biodefense" sensors for tularemia went off in Washington, DC during the anti-war rally a few weekends ago. These sensors are prone to false-positives from naturally occurring organisms and such alarms have happened before. In this case it is reported that half a dozen sensors went off, so if you are going to bother to have a system like this, you would think someone would pay attention to it.

Unfortunately, not the case (Boston Globe):
Some federal and local officials in the District of Columbia were not notified for five days that sensors on the Mall had detected potentially dangerous bacteria last month, because tests were not conclusively positive, a US official said yesterday. .

The Department of Homeland Security delayed in alerting the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the same reason, said Richard Besser, who directs the CDC's coordinating office for terrorism preparedness and emergency response.

More than a half-dozen sensors showed the presence of tularemia bacteria the morning after thousands of people gathered on the Mall for a book festival and antiwar rally. The CDC was not contacted for at least 72 hours.
This says several things. First, Michael Chertoff's Department of Homeland Security doesn't have the public health expertise to be managing this. Second, DHHS still doesn't have its act together. Third, public health authorities, from the local officials in DC to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, are out of the loop. Fourth, the vast sums sent down the rat hole of "biodefense" were a waste of money (except for the biotech companies who profited) because they were accompanied by further deterioration of the public health infrastructure. Without that infrastructure alarms going off are like trees falling in the forest with no one to hear them. It is irrelevant if they make a sound or not.

Lastly, it says once again that the Bush Administration clowns holding the public's life in their hands are a bunch of incompetent fuck-ups. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.