According to The Navhind Times dated 8th May 2006, USA is unprepared for the Bird Flu pandemic. A fact that the United States Health and Human Services Secretary, Mr. Michael Leavitt admitted.
Avian Influenza or the H5N1 Bird Flu virus has not yet been found in North America but experts feel that it is only a matter of time before it crosses over from Asia to Europe and Africa. It may only be a matter of the next few months!
The US has already awarded $ 1 billion worth of contracts to five drug companies to develop a vaccine. The White House has an action plan ready to counter the pandemic in the midst of fears that a pandemic may kill up to two million Americans causing economic havoc.
The US and the European Union will host talks in Vienna on June 6-7 to evaluate the action plans to fight the Bird Flu crisis and this will include the vaccine development progress.
Vaccine development and manufacture was a top priority laid out by President George Bush’s “National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza”.
206 people worldwide have been infected with the H5N1 virus out of which 113 have died, more than 50 percent, according to World Health Organization. Mr. Leavitt compared the H5N1 virus to the 1918-1919 influenza epidemics which had killed 50 million people worldwide.
The Bush administration released the Bird Flu response plan called the “Pandemic Influenza” which outlines the strategies that the government, businesses and citizens were to take incase a deadly strain reached the shores of USA. The Military would be called on to help.
The Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman said that the Military would aid in transporting essential supplies via military aircraft, medical surveillance, scientific investigations and tests abroad, distribution of medicines and provision of emergency medical facilities, communication support to hospitals, spot dispensaries, police and other civic agencies. The US Military might even be used to give quarantine assistance and/or be used in any appropriate situation. This would entail the need of the overseas troops as well.
US is looking for long term action plans and methods to slow the virus from spreading, get enough critical medical supply and limit if not stop this inevitable chaos. The government is trying to gear itself up against a worst-case scenario of almost 2 million deaths due to this deadly virus.
Until now only the only drug oseltamivir or Tamiflu is known to reduce the severity and duration of the illness within 48 hours of the flu symptoms. This may increase the chances of survival but clinical data is limited regarding this and until more research is done, it is all the help we have right now. Let us therefore join hands across the world and look for solutions to combat a situation that seems mightier than us!