Public Health and Drinking Water News Brief – August 1st, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

August 1, 2003

W.H.O. Proposes New Training Program to Help Fight Global Outbreaks

Dr. Jong Wook Lee, the new Director General of the World Health Organization, announced the formation of a new program designed to train young epidemiologists to fight outbreaks like SARS, similar to a program offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. The American program, called the Epidemic Intelligence Service, is a two-year training program that enables graduates to travel around the world to provide public health assistance to countries affected by outbreaks and natural disasters. The goals of the new W.H.O. program are to provide the agency with a greater ability to investigate outbreaks and train future leaders in academic and research centers and health departments.

A transcript of Dr. Lee’s address to staff is available at:

Security Planning Grant Will Help Small Drinking Water Utilities

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $2 million grant to the National Rural Water Association to assist small community water systems with security planning. The grant will provide approximately 4,400 water systems serving populations between 3,300 and 10,000 people with training sessions, on-site technical assistance and Internet-based tools to teach personnel about the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 and provide assistance in preparing the required vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans.

More information is available at:

Water Shortages Predicted in the Next 10 Years

Depletion of groundwater and the lack of surface water storage space are two of the reasons why state water managers nationwide predict water shortages in the next decade. The U.S. General Accounting Office conducted a Web-based survey of water managers in 50 states to help Congress understand the range and complexity of freshwater supply issues.

Specifically, water managers in 34 states expect shortages in some localities and regions, while Colorado and South Carolina expect shortages statewide. Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, North Dakota, Utah and Vermont do not expect any water shortages. California, Michigan and New Mexico did not respond to the survey. Under drought conditions, shortages are expected in 46 states. Water managers from 23 states said that federal environmental laws have restricted their states’ ability to develop new water storage capacity and to distribute water to or meet the needs of offstream users. Growing populations and an increased demand for water for fisheries and the environment are also concerns. The GAO reported that water shortages could have severe consequences, including economic damage to agriculture that may total “billions of dollars.”

Please view the entire report, “Freshwater Supply: States’ Views of How Federal Agencies Could Help Them Meet the Challenges of Expected Shortages,” at: ( PDF)

HHS Creates New Food Security Research Program

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced $5 million in funding to support a new research program that will develop technologies and strategies to prevent and minimize the potential threats to the safety and security of the nation’s food supply. The funding is being made available from the post-9/11 Emergency Response Fund and will be used to develop prevention and mitigation technologies that will improve the ability to assess foods for contamination with chemical, biological and radiological agents. The new research program, as well as expanded food inspections and border resources, are part of HHS’s plan to enhance food security. The announcement comes as the HHS and Food and Drug Administration reported a fivefold increase in the number of imported food examinations in fiscal year 2003 as compared with 2001.

For additional information, please visit:

Cholera in Liberia

The World Health Organization is helping the Ministry of Health in Liberia with cholera outbreak control measures, including distributing chlorine in Monrovia and the surrounding areas. The W.H.O. is also providing drugs, medical supplies and chlorine to nongovernmental organizations such as MERLIN and Médecins sans Frontières (France and Belgium) that are working in the area. Between June 6 and 29, approximately 586 cases of cholera were reported from health facilities in the area.

Information is available at:

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