A Great Step In Getting Ready for Bird Flu

On May 3, the White House released the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, which includes over 300 actions for Federal agencies and other entities to take. As a doctor, I believe that the plan is a great step towards ensuring a timely and appropriate pandemic influenza response at the federal level as well as providing clearer guidance to state and local communities on further needed preparedness efforts.

The implementation of an incident management system will enhance federal interagency coordination. The President made it very clear that he will lead the federal government response should a pandemic flu arrive in the United States. HHS Secretary Leavitt will retain authority over public health activities and DHS Secretary Chertoff will handle coordination between agencies and communications with state and local governments.

I believe the federal government should do all it can to help prepare for a potentially devastating outbreak, but I want to stress that all of us, as individuals, have a responsibility to be prepared.

In addition, the emphasis on employing several interventions at the same time to contain or mitigate a potential pandemic is the right approach. A multilateral approach against pandemic influenza includes addressing the disease in poultry as well as humans. This disease is endemic in birds and cannot be eradicated unless more efforts to control avian influenza in the animal population are enacted. By reducing the incidence of avian flu in poultry, human health is preserved by being less likely to come in contact with avian influenza viruses.

 

The actions listed in the Administration's implementation plan provide clear goals and practical tasks. Agencies, states, and businesses should soon be able to assess their pandemic plans and integrate these defined actions to strengthen the existing public health infrastructure against pandemic influenza. Above all, Americans have a clear understanding of how the federal government can and will handle a potential pandemic.

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