Terrorists using germ warfare would be helped by the lack of medical insurance for millions of Americans, experts say.

An estimated 40 million people without insurance might avoid seeking care if infected through bioterrorism, thus spreading the disease and delaying detection and containment.

A member of the American Medical Association and a health law professor at Georgetown University urge the government to tell U.S. residents who have symptoms to seek care, regardless of their ability to pay or legal standing. Another concern is that illegal aliens who fear deportation avoid medical care completely.

Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services have not yet responded to the request from Dr. Matthew Wynia and Lawrence Gostin. We urge our representatives in Washington to press this concern.

"Their lack of insurance is a known risk to their own health, but it must now also be recognized as a risk to the nation's health," Wynia wrote in the journal Science.

We can no longer be apathetic toward the uninsured, who are usually the working poor or those between jobs.

For example, it's no coincidence that the incidence of AIDS among Latino-Americans is four times that of white Americans and 95 percent of poor and near-poor Latino adults lack medical insurance.

But AIDS is not as easily spread as some bioterrorism threats such as smallpox.

The feds need to recognize that Americans don't live in isolation when it comes to this new kind of war.



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