Proposed budget big on pandemic flu readiness

Bush calls for $7.1B to prepare for bird flu

President Bush made pandemic flu preparedness his top health care priority in the 2007 federal budget and seeks $2.8 billion in funds to stockpile vaccines and antiviral medication, among other things.

The $2.8 billion Bush requested today is the second installment in $7.1 billion he requested in the 2006 budget to battle a potential pandemic flu. But Congress approved only $3.8 billion last year.

The 2007 pandemic flu funding request includes $352 million to support the Department of Health and Human Services’ pandemic flu preparedness plan released last November.

According to the proposal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would get $188 million to improve global disease surveillance, establish more quarantine stations, develop diagnostic tests to rapidly identify flu strains and work with foreign governments to help prevent the spread of a pandemic.

The 2007 budget request also includes $79 million for HHS’ Office of the Secretary for international activities, including the development and deployment of rapid tests for detection and risk communications.

In a related development, HHS Deputy Secretary Alex Azar signed an agreement today with the Institut Pasteur, a Paris-based nonprofit foundation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, to form a joint working group. It will focus on disease surveillance, epidemiological investigation, testing, diagnosis and control of infectious diseases that originate in Southeast Asia, such as the H5N1 influenza strain.

The Defense Department also plays a role in global disease surveillance efforts, said Army Lt. Col. Wayne Hachey, DOD’s director of deployment medicine and surveillance, last week at the State of the Military Health System Conference in Washington, D.C., last week.

Hachey said the Naval Medical Research Unit 3, based in Cairo, Egypt, serves as the reference lab for the H5JN1 strain of avian flu for the World Health Organization.

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