Saturday, May 12, 2007

Defense Department Releases Influenza Pandemic Plan

The Defense Department Tuesday rolled out its Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan, which brings various federal agencies together to prepare the nation to deal with a potential pandemic outbreak of influenza. “Right now, we’re as ready as we can be,” said Richard Chavez, director of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear preparedness and response at the Pentagon. “What we want to do is get information out to the public so that we don’t create panic, but do provide them with the proper level of information.”

For example, one bird-flu virus in particular, known as H5N1, is especially deadly to fowl. It can be spread to humans, who have no natural immunity. More than 170 people worldwide have died from avian flu, according to the World Health Organization. A major part of the plan to confront a pandemic is containment. “If it starts with the avian vector, which is the poultry right now, we can identify the farms that are affected [and] cull the birds before they have the chance to infect other birds and animals,” Mr. Chavez said.

Another component of the plan, he noted, involves research and development and stockpiling of appropriate anti-viral vaccines and other medicines. U.S. officials also have interviewed experts in Singapore on how they successfully dealt with the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic that occurred worldwide between November 2002 and July 2003, Mr. Chavez said. The National Guard could be called to assist either state or federal authority in the event of a pandemic.

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