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March 10, 1999


SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today proposed the creation of a "rapid response" team at the state Department of Public Health to help communities and counties deal with future cases of infectious diseases.

"New and emerging infectious diseases can present a significant risk to the citizens of Illinois and a cluster of cases can tax the expertise and resources of local health departments," Ryan said. "This new team of specialists, backed by enhanced laboratory capability at Public Health, will allow the state to be better prepared to handle these threats."

Ryan said his proposal would cost an estimated $1 million and will be added to the Fiscal Year 2000 budget for the Department, which is currently under consideration by the General Assembly.

State Public Health officials developed this proposal in part because of the recent "cluster" of cases diagnosed as invasive Group A Streptococcus in the Chicago area and isolated cases of invasive "Strep A" elsewhere in the state. This winter, there have been 59 reported cases of invasive "Strep A" in Illinois. Since December, 14 people in Illinois have died because of invasive "Strep A"; 46 of those cases were in the Chicago area, with 11 deaths.

During 1998, there were 193 reported cases of "Strep A" in Illinois and 35 deaths because of the disease. Overall, more than 2 million cases of infectious diseases occur annually in Illinois.

Ryan's plan has two components:

$600,000 to hire eight staff for an Infectious Disease Rapid Response team, led by a physician, to assist local health departments in investigating outbreaks. The team will be composed of personnel with experience in epidemiology, communicable diseases, food protection and environmental health. The team would be dispatched to assist local health departments in dealing with infectious diseases.

$400,000 for sophisticated laboratory equipment at the Department's laboratories to more quickly identify microorganisms responsible for a disease outbreak, equipment that uses special, cutting-edge genetic analysis to determine if organisms from sick individuals are the same. During last summer's outbreak of leptospirosis at Lake Springfield in Sangamon County, outside labs had to be relied on to evaluate samples and test results often took months to return.

"Hundreds of thousands of infectious disease cases occur annually in the state and the public health network needs more trained personnel and upgraded capabilities to better meet the threat of diseases," said Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director.


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