Web Zap*Germs Archive

December 11, 2005

White House Tests Pandemic Readiness - But Says Nothing About It

It's impossible to tell what actually went on, but USA Today reports that the White House conducted a four-hour drill, involving Cabinet and other federal officials, designed to test the government's response to a potential avian-flu pandemic.

I guess I'm comforted.

Update 11 Dec 2005: To WaPo scribbler Charles Babington fell the task of composing a non-news news story on the drill, about which the White House was clearly not talking. Here's non-critical, non-breaking news from Babington's advertising wraparound:
[Frances Frago Townsend, White House homeland security adviser] declined to give details about the drill or its results. "It's meant to push federal resources to the breaking point and to ensure that we're prepared, that we identify gaps and then we plan to fill them," she said. "We accomplished that this morning."
Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said the federal government alone cannot handle a major flu outbreak. "State and local governments, state and local communities, schools need to have a plan, businesses need to have a plan, faith organizations need to have a plan," he said. "The public health community understands a pandemic. . . . It's now time to engage a broader community so that we have a true nationwide response effort that's not only planned, but exercised and ready."

Neither he nor Townsend offered specifics for possible plans, but each urged Americans to seek information from the Web site Leavitt plans to visit health officials in every state to discuss strategies.

He and Townsend said vaccines and antiviral drugs will be central to combating a major flu outbreak, and they urged Congress to fund Bush's request for $7.1 billion to speed production of such drugs. Leavitt said: "We need to have a domestic surveillance system. When it happens in the United States, having the capacity to know what's occurring within the health care system is of vital importance."

Townsend said: "We currently have no evidence that a pandemic flu in this country is imminent. That said, we are fairly warned, and the time to prepare for that pandemic is now."


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