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U.S. lawmakers to examine swine flu response

April 27, 2009
by Susan Heavey
Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers plan to take a closer look this week at the federal government's response to the swine flu outbreak that has sickened people in five states and killed dozens in Mexico.

At least three hearings are planned, beginning with a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday on steps to protect public health in the wake of the discovery of the disease in the United States.

PANDEMIC FUNDING DROPPED FROM STIMULUS BILL

Efforts to prepare for a possible pandemic have been under way for years. Some health experts, however, have been critical of the federal government's work long-term to prepare for possible pandemics.

Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit group that advocates for emergency preparedness, said officials had made progress but called on Congress to fully fund a $7.1 billion flu strategy proposed by President George W. Bush.

The group said $870 million of that sum was included in the government's fiscal 2008 budget and in the 2009 economic stimulus bill but removed in both cases before passage.

"It certainly wouldn't have made a difference in terms of the response to what's happening today, (but) it will slow down the level of preparedness that we could have at a later date," said Jeff Levi, the group's executive director.

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