Avian Flu Likely To Reach U.S. in 2006
Three Bush administration officials on Monday said avian flu could reach the U.S. through migratory birds this year and announced a plan to test as many as 100,000 birds annually for the virus, USA Today reports (Manning, USA Today, 3/21).
"We expect it to show up in the U.S. at some point, possibly this year," Department of the Interior Secretary Gail Norton said (Herrdobler, Hearst/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/21). Norton said that the tests likely would find 20 to 100 cases of avian flu, although additional tests likely would find "dozens" of false positives (Quaid, AP/Bergen Record, 3/20).
USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said, "The detection of highly pathogenic H5N1 virus in the United States would not constitute a reason to panic" (Stein, Washington Post, 3/21). He added, "None of us can build a cage around the United States. We have to be prepared to deal with the virus here" (Doggett/Walker, Reuters/Newark Star-Ledger, 3/21).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said the appearance of avian flu in the U.S. "should not be a cause for alarm or panic," adding that the possibility should "motivate us to pick up the pace, renew pandemic preparations on every front at every level" (Hagstrom, CongressDaily, 3/20).
In addition, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that, in the event of an avian flu pandemic, the department would not supersede state and local emergency responders. Chertoff said, "The idea is to carefully understand your requirements, assess your capabilities, work with you to figure out what additional capabilities you need, and then draw upon the capabilities we have at the federal government to support you" (Strohm, CongressDaily, 3/20).