Frist Supports Biodefense Initiative To Combat Bioterrorism
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday said the United States should undertake a large-scale initiative to defend against bioterrorism and naturally occurring diseases, the New York Times reports. Speaking to Harvard Medical School's Department of Health Care Policy, Frist said that the world is unprepared for potential pandemics of emerging viruses, such as avian flu. In addition, Frist said the United States is lagging behind Britain, France and Canada in securing supplies of the antiviral agent for the avian flu. Frist's proposed initiative -- for which he had not developed a cost estimate -- would join government, the private sector and educational institutions in a partnership Frist called "a Manhattan Project for the 21st century."
Elements of the proposal are included in pending Senate legislation on biodefense, the Times reports. Frist said, "Any number of known and unknown viruses, for which at present there is neither immunization nor cure, are at this moment cooking in Asia and Africa, where they arise in hotbeds of densely intermingled human and animal populations." He added, "We must open our eyes to face the single greatest threat to our safety and security today, but also to seize our single greatest opportunity" (New York Times, 6/2).