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Flu pandemic coming, US not prepared

Immediate action is needed to prepare the United States for a deadly pandemic of influenza, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is telling policymakers.

In meetings with congressional and administration leaders, IDSA has explained that the H5N1 "bird flu" spreading in Asia has the potential to develop into a pandemic like the one that claimed more than half a million American lives in 1918. Even if this strain does not emerge as a pandemic, infectious disease experts agree that another flu pandemic is just around the corner. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts even a "mild" pandemic could kill at least 100,000 people if the nation is not prepared.

"This year's serious problems with flu vaccine supply showed us just how unprepared we are," says Andrew T. Pavia, chair of IDSA's Pandemic Influenza Task Force. "If this had been a pandemic year, we would have been in serious trouble. Now is the time to fix these problems and develop the ability to respond, before the pandemic strikes."

IDSA has outlined seven steps to prepare for a flu pandemic. The first four recommendations should be applied immediately. The last three are longer-term:

Secure vaccine and antiviral supplies. Enough vaccine and antivirals need to be in place before a pandemic strikes, as well as a plan to distribute them. IDSA is calling for a stockpile of antiviral drugs that is adequate to treat at least 50 percent of the U.S. population.

Strengthen liability protections during emergency outbreak response. In case of a declared influenza emergency, it will be vital to immunize and treat large numbers of people. Even rare adverse reactions associated with a therapy would become more common when millions are treated. Health care workers and medical facilities administering emergency therapeutics, as well as the companies that make them, should be protected from lawsuits stemming from these adverse events so lo
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Contact: Diana Olson
dolson@idsociety.org
703-299-0201
Infectious Diseases Society of America
22-Mar-2005


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