The problem is not just one of priorities. It's also a matter of expertise. Our national-security apparatus, accustomed to dealing with military issues, hasn't brought enough health experts into the nation's emergency-preparedness program. According to the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the medical community has, so far, received little funding or targeted attention from any preparedness program, and few hospitals have participated in the bioterrorism-response exercises sponsored by federal authorities.
This is a particularly illogical strategy, since planning for a possible "man-made" epidemic is best handled by people who are specially trained for this kind of occurrence: epidemiologists and infectious-disease specialists. Preparing for bioterrorism without their active involvement is a bit like preparing for war without the Department of Defense. It's time to correct this oversight.