Thursday, May 04, 2006

White House unveils U.S. strategy on dealing with bird-flu outbreak

The complete article from the US Government can be found here (This is a .PDF document). Be warned however that it is 233 pages long. The following is a brief statement outlining important parts of the document.

National Strategy For Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan

WASHINGTON - The White House on Wednesday unveiled a foreboding report on the nation’s lack of preparedness for a bird-flu pandemic, warning that such an outbreak could kill as many as 2 million people and deal a warlike blow to the country’s economic and social fabric. It urged state and local governments to make their own preparations beyond the federal efforts.

In the government’s first detailed look at the potential impact on public health and U.S. society as a whole, the report said a full-blown pandemic could lead to travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, massive absenteeism, an economic slowdown ``and civil disturbances and breakdowns in public order.’’

It warned that the health care system—from doctors and nurses to suppliers of pharmaceuticals—is inadequate to meet the country’s needs in a flu pandemic. ``In the event of multiple simultaneous outbreaks, there may be insufficient medical resources or personnel to augment local capabilities,’’ the report warned.

More broadly, state, local and tribal governments should ``anticipate that all sources of external aid may be compromised during a pandemic,’’ it said, meaning that ``local communities will have to address the medical and non-medical effects of the pandemic with available resources.’’

While warning that as a last resort, mandatory travel restrictions may be necessary, such limits alone ``are unlikely to reduce the total number of people who become ill or the impact the pandemic will have on any one community.’’

The document includes the White House Homeland Security Council’s plan to implement a national strategy in the face of a flu pandemic, for which Congress appropriated $3.8 billion in December.

The strategy is built around three elements: preparation; surveillance and detection; and containment. And the report listed more than 300 steps that it said the administration would take, had already begun to take or would recommend that state and local governments pursue.

In a cover letter, Bush said the government had made ``major investments in vaccine and anti-viral development, research into the influenza virus, surveillance for disease in animals and humans, and the local state and federal infrastructure necessary to respond to a pandemic.’’

But the report indicated that only a bare beginning had been made thus far on preparing for the kind of large-scale, months-long disaster a flu pandemic would represent.

Posted by john T. on 05/04 at 04:12 AM
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