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Study: N.H. on Top in Disease Preparedness

New Hampshire ranked first in a new survey of states’ readiness to face an infectious disease outbreak.

The state was the only one to receive eight out of 10 possible points on the survey, by the Trust for America’s Health.

And the two points the state missed? New Hampshire fell just a few percentage points shy of the goals in two different vaccinations ratings.

New Hampshire received high marks for planning and maintaining resources for testing samples in the event of an infectious disease outbreak, and for funding testing or education about diseases and vaccines.

The state is also one of 35 that mandates health care providers report infections patients pick up in medical settings.

“I knew that we were up there but I didn’t know we’d be the only ones in that category,” said Jose Montero, director of the Division of Public Health. “My staff, the key members of the response team, the people in the public health lab and emergency services unit are always available and fully connected with what’s going on.”

He said different units in the division hold weekly and daily meetings to review cases of possibly communicative infectious diseases.

New Hampshire is also one of only 12 states with a complete climate change adaptation plan that includes information about the impact of human health.

The state did not meet the goal of 50 percent vaccination rate of all residents over 6 months of age getting the seasonal flu vaccine. The most recent seasonal flu vaccination rate in the state was 48.9 percent.

Key populations in the state have a higher than average flu vaccination rate, Montero said.

More than 90 percent of health care workers get the vaccine, and more than half of people over age 65 do, too, he said.

New Hampshire also didn’t meet the goals of 90 percent vaccination rate of 19- to 35-month-olds against whooping cough, with about 88.7 percent of toddlers getting the vaccine. Only Connecticut, Delaware and the District of Columbia met this goal, according to the survey.

Montero said that 97 percent of kindergarten students in New Hampshire have received all of their vaccinations.

“Beyond all the noise, parents are choosing vaccinations. We don’t always get them to do it on time, but we are almost there,” he said.

For the organization that did the survey, the results at the other end of the spectrum were more note-worthy, said Deputy Director Rich Hamburg.

Thirty-two states scored five or fewer points, including Massachusetts (five points) and Maine (five points). Vermont scored six points.

“We only have to look back four years to when there was a pandemic flu outbreak,” Hamburg said. “It was not as virulent a strain as anticipated, but ... between food-borne illnesses, weather events, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, acts of terrorism, there’s always the possibility out there for something happening that could test a state’s readiness for a surge in testing and they are not ready.”