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Budget Problems Not Helping Attack Worries

California´s budget crisis is compounding the federal government´s worries over the nation´s vulnerability to a bioterror attack involving the toxin that causes botulism. That´s because the best botulism antidote – and the only safe botulism treatment available for infants – is produced by an obscure California program that Governor Davis plans to cut from the state budget. If the governor´s proposed budget is adopted, the Infant Botulism Treatment and Prevention Program will be eliminated on June 30th. The program, operated by the California Department of Health Services, has an annual budget of $1.5 million.

The botulism toxin is the most poisonous toxin found naturally on Earth. Experts fear that thousands would be sickened if terrorists found a way to get it into the nation´s food supply. One of the country´s top bioterrorism officials announced yesterday that the federal government has made it a high priority to combat that threat. The governor´s office says that with the state facing a $35 billion deficit, painful cuts are unavoidable.