US Is '50%' Prepared for Flu, Expert Testifies

AUSTRALIA - A top government health official here said that the United States was only "50 percent" prepared for an avian flu pandemic, prompting legislators to call for much more vigorous action to stop the spread of the disease before it reaches U.S. shores.

In a congressional hearing this week on international preparations for a pandemic, lawmakers pressed Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to quantify the state of U.S. preparedness.

She demurred at first, before adding, "I would venture to say we are less than 50 percent, but we are 100 percent more prepared than we were three years ago." She and other experts told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee that even with a sharp rise in funding and attention since the disease began an unexpectedly rapid spread around the globe, preparations would take months or years.

President George W. Bush drew attention to the prospects of a pandemic in October when he said he would ask Congress to spend $7.1 billion on bird-flu preparations. Congress so far has allocated $3.3 billion, much of it to stockpile antiviral drugs and bolster domestic preparedness.

But Representative Nita Lowey of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations subcommittee, said that "one of my top priorities is to fight it over there," and other lawmakers agreed.

Source: International News Service
calendar icon 5 March 2006
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