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New Hampshire is best prepared for a major infectious disease outbreak

Matt Damon starred in “Contagion,” a thriller about infectious diseases. (Credit: Warner Brothers)

Antibacterial soap may not save you, but living in New Hampshire could.

The Granite State is best prepared for a major infectious disease threat, according to a new report on infectious disease prevention and control. If you live in Georgia, Nebraska or New Jersey, well, good luck. (Just kidding. Kind of.)

The report, by nonprofits Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, evaluated states based on 10 policy indicators. New Hampshire scored an eight. The bulk of states — 15 — scored a five. Georgia, Nebraska and New Jersey each earned two points. The indicators were picked based on conversations with public health and health-care officials.

Just 17 states scored a point for increasing or maintaining public health funding from the 2011 through 2013 fiscal years, which served as the first measured indicator. In North Dakota, funding surged 32.8 percent, more than in any other state.

But the states may not be entirely to blame — or get credit — for their situations, the report’s authors note. They are operating with limited resources, policy environments and communities of varying levels of health. And federal action — or inaction — can affect the states as well.

“Between sequestration and the government shutdown, biomedical research funded by national Institutes of Health and other federal agencies was delayed or disrupted, including clinical trials,” the report’s authors write. “The erosion of funding could have a long-term impact on the research infrastructure, as scientists have trouble finding funding or studies are interrupted.”

Whooping cough vaccinations were used as the basis for the second indicator. Only Connecticut, Delaware, and D.C. scored a point for meeting a federal goal of vaccinating 90 percent of young children (19 to 35 months old) against whooping cough.

The third indicator looked at policies encouraging vaccination against the Human Papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted virus which can cause cervical cancer, among other things. Some 24 states were found to adequately educate or otherwise encourage the public on HPV vaccinations.

The remaining indicators included flu vaccination rates, whether states were prepared for reemerging threats due to climate change, rates of infections associated with health-care facilities and preparedness to handle a surge in testing in response to an outbreak.

Click here to view a breakdown of how each state scored on each indicator.

Infectious threat disease preparedness. (Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Infectious disease threat preparedness. (Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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