Bush releases flu strategy details

    22

    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP )? A flu pandemic that hits the United States would force cities to ration scarce drugs and vaccine and house the sick in hotels or schools when hospitals overflow, unprecedented federal plans say.

    The Bush administration’s long-awaited report Wednesday on battling a worldwide super-flu outbreak makes clear that old-fashioned infection-control will be key.

    Signs that a super-flu is spreading among people anywhere in the world could prompt U.S. travel restrictions or other steps to contain the illness before it hits America’s shores.

    If that fails, the Pandemic Influenza Plan offers specific instructions to local health officials: The sick or the people caring for them should wear masks. People coughing must stay three feet away from others in doctors’ waiting rooms. People should cancel nonessential doctor appointments and limit visits to the hospital.

    A day after President Bush outlined his $7.1 billion strategy to prepare for the next pandemic, the details released Wednesday stress major steps that state and local authorities must begin taking now: Update quarantine laws. Work with utilities to keep the phones working and grocers to keep supplying food amid the certain panic. Determine when to close schools and limit public gatherings such as movies or religious services.

    “This is a critical part of the plan,” because states will be at the forefront of a battle that could have “5,000 fronts,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who will work with governors in coming weeks to push local preparations. “Every community is different and requires a different approach.”

    Also Wednesday, the government for the first time told Americans not to hoard the anti-flu drug Tamiflu, because doing so will hurt federal efforts to stockpile enough to treat the sick who really need it. Tamiflu’s maker recently suspended shipments of the drug to U.S. pharmacies because of concern about hoarding.

    A key question is how much of the financial burden of preparing must be shouldered by cash-strapped states. Bush’s plan provides $100 million to update state pandemic plans, but also requires states to spend about $510 million of their own money to buy enough Tamiflu for 31 million people to supplement the federal stockpile.

    Some states might not be able to buy the drug, said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

    “This is a national emergency. I believe very strongly it should not depend upon where you live as to what sort of protection you get,” Lowey told Leavitt on Wednesday.

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email