State officials want more moneyto fight a potential pandemic of theH5N1 avian influenza (bird flu),should it make its way into theUnited States. State as well as localhealth officials complained about thefinancial impact upon the recentrelease of the federal government'saction plan for a flu outbreak.
The 227-page plan estimates that athird of the population could becomeinfected, 2 million individuals coulddie, 40% of employees might beabsent from work during each wave ofthe outbreak, and $600 million inincome could be lost for the UnitedStates. Aside from increasing thestockpile of antiviral drugs and vaccines,the government will increasethe stockpile of poultry vaccines to110 million doses.
The plan, divided into 9 chapters,includes a list of actions the federalgovernment will fulfill as the virusspreads. A major bone of contentionin the past year has been who shouldlead the government's response. Theplan specifies that the secretary ofhealth and human services wouldhead the federal health and medicalresponse. The coordination of federaloperations and resources would fallto the secretary of homeland security.
Although Josh Sharfstein, MD, commissionerof the Baltimore HealthDepartment, is in favor of the plan, hesaid that it offered "new expectationswithout new resources." Local governmentswould handle the flood ofhospital patients, care for ill patientsat home, and spend millions of dollarson antiviral medications, he said.
Congress has allocated $3.8 billionto cover preparations such as drugand vaccine purchases. Of the moneyappropriated, the Bush administrationhas spent $1.8 billion. Currently,there is a bill before Congress askingfor an additional $2.3 billion for flupreparations, and the president isexpected to ask for another $1 billionin 2008, according to Fran Townsend,the president's homeland securityadviser.