The president’s $7.1 billion plan:
- November 1, 2005: President Bush announced his plan to ask congress for $7.1 billion to prepare the U.S. for an influenza pandemic. Recent reports of avian influenza H5N1 killing humans in Asia spurned the president into action: “our country has been given fair warning of this danger to our homeland and time to prepare,” he said. Government spending under Bush’s plan would go as follows:
- $2.8 billion to research faster and more reliable methods of vaccine production
- $1.2 billion to buy 20 million doses of vaccine for the current H5N1 strain of avian flu
- $1 billion to buy Tamiflu and Relenza antiviral agents
- Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called November 1st a “historic day in public health” because the president and congress finally addressed the immense threat that another flu pandemic poses to global health.
Congressional rejection of emergency flu money:
- November 17, 2005: Congress rejected President Bush’s request for emergency funds to prepare for flu pandemic. Conservative republicans claimed that the money would have to come from cutting other government programs, so it has been deleted from a larger $602 billion U.S. health and labor spending bill. Republican leaders claimed that they would work to pass separate legislation for the emergency bird flu plan later this year or early 2006.
You can look at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Pandemic Influenza Plan at: http://www.hhs.gov/pandemicflu/plan/
The WHO also has extensive information on epidemic and pandemic alert and response for avian influenza: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/
The scary truth about the origin of the Spanish influenza virus:
- Studies published recently in the journals Nature and Science examined hemagglutinin protein structure in the 1918 influenza virus, which killed over 20 million people. Hemagglutinin proteins of the human virus show a strong similarity to those of avian viruses, suggesting that the former came from a recombinant strain of the latter. This evidence has great implications for the threat that currently-circulating avian influenza poses in spreading to the human population.