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U.S. Health System ‘Ill-Prepared’ To Deal With Major Radiation Event, Washington Post Reports

The U.S. health system is “ill-prepared to cope with a catastrophic release of radiation, despite years of focus on the possibility of a terrorist ‘dirty bomb’ or an improvised nuclear device attack,” according to U.S. officials, the Washington Post reports.

“Current capabilities can only handle a few radiation injuries at any one time,” according to a “blunt assessment” compiled by the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 and marked “for official use only.” The assessment says “there is no strategy for notifying the public in real time of recommendations on shelter or evacuation priorities.”

“The Homeland Security report, plus several other reports and interviews with almost two dozen experts inside and outside the government, reveal other gaps that might increase the risks posed by a nuclear accident or terrorist attack,” the Washington Post notes. “Many states don’t have a basic radiation emergency plan for communicating with the public or responding to the health risks. … Recently the White House and other federal officials concerned about deficiencies in public readiness met with experts to explore what might be done to make nuclear events more survivable,” the newspaper writes. “‘The bottom line is that the citizenry are not prepared at all,’ said Michael McDonald, president of Global Health Initiatives, [Inc.,] who participated in White House and congressional briefings” (Fink, 4/7).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.