Readying the Global Flu Shot

Pandemic Preparedness Represents Federal Dollars Well Spent

February 9, 2009
by Rick Weiss
Science Progress

The media have moved on from the avian influenza scare. Editors got bored when, after bird flu first jumped to humans a few years ago, a feared global pandemic did not swallow humanity. But the risk has not diminished. Indeed, scientists agree that it is inevitable that the avian influenza virus will at some point gain the lucky mutation or two that will allow it to spread not just from chickens to people but also quickly and easily from person to person. Such a strain could quickly kill two million Americans and incapacitate tens of millions more, according to government estimates. The global toll would be orders of magnitude higher, wreaking economic and social havoc and perhaps political instability...

Equally worrisome, pandemic preparedness funding for states and localities-those crucial first responders-has been cut by 25 percent since 2005. It's crucial that this funding be restored in the 2010 budget, said Jeffrey Levi, a public health policy specialist at George Washington University and executive director of Trust for America's Health. Levi also worries about the longstanding expectation that private companies will purchase drug stockpiles for their employees. "In a recession this is the first thing to go," Levi said.

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