Few U.S. Cities are Capable of Dealing with Bird Flu; Global Community Starts Own Defense Projects

Medical experts claim that Seattle and New York City are among a few metropolitan areas that have made significant progress in preparing for a bird flu catastrophe, according to an article in today's edition of The New York Times.

Jeffrey Levi, a flu expert with the Trust for America's Health, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the country is "way behind" where it should be in building defenses against the disease.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, stated at a conference of avian flu experts in the nation's capital last week that the country's strategy was one of buying time until millions of doses of vaccines and anti-viral drugs could be produced.

Gerberding noted that if the country prepares now, "we may be able to decrease the death rate and keep society functioning."

Last November, the White House revealed a national response plan, under which it took primary responsibility for creating stockpiles of vaccines and anti-viral drugs. States and local governments were left with the task of establishing quarantines, delivering vaccinations and assuring that the sick receive medical care.

WHITE HOUSE ALLOCATES BILLIONS President Bush had requested $7.1 billion for fighting avian flu, but Congress provided only $3.3 billion for this year. The president was expected today to ask for an additional $2.65 billion for 2007, with the bulk going for vaccine and drug research, while only $350 million is to be earmarked for local health departments. With 5,000 local health departments, the sum shrinks to $70,000 for each unit.

"Even if a vaccine were available, few communities would be prepared to dispense it quickly


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