Monday, July 23, 2012

Flu Pandemic Would Catch U.S. Unprepared

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that the nation is unprepared for the true effects of a pandemic such as that expected from avian flu. The department conducted a survey of the emergency preparedness plans of all 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia. It concluded that while most of the country is well prepared to distribute vaccines and antiviral drugs to combat an influenza pandemic, this forms only one small part of what needs to be done. Transportation plans for a pandemic are still far from adequate, the department says. Furthermore, many states and territories are still planning as if a pandemic would be only a short incident, rather than months of social and economic disruption that could easily spread across the world. Health experts now accept that some sort of pandemic will inevitably strike the United States -- most likely a mutant variation on the highly lethal avian flu strain H5N1, which has infected and killed 394 and 248 people to date, respectively. Currently, the disease does not pass easily to or between humans, but researchers worry that it would take only a few simple mutations for that to change. Yet while a future pandemic is accepted as reality in health circles, many governments and hospitals continue to rank preparation low on their list of priorities. For example, most hospitals have not yet made plans for the "surge" of patients that a rapidly spreading disease would cause. "The vast majority of hospitals are like the vast majority of other elements -- they are in the private sector," said Dr. Til Jolly, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security. "And economic times are tough." The federal government has also played a role in diverting money and attention from pandemic preparedness. "Federal funding for state and territorial pandemic preparedness ended in August 2008," said Paul Jarris, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. "In addition, overall federal funding for preparedness activities has been cut by 25 percent since 2005." Source - www.naturalnews.com

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