The AP provides an update today on the CDC’s plans to develop a system to track people entering the country for the purposes of detecting and tracking pandemic flu, a plan announced last fall and described in these regulations. From the AP story:
Concerned about bird flu, federal health officials want airlines to collect personal information about domestic and international passengers to help track a potential epidemic.
Financially strapped airlines say creating such a database would impose staggering new costs.
“What we’re asking for is the authority to collect the information in the context of modern travel on airlines,” Dr. Marty Cetron, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s director of global migration and quarantine, said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
“There’s just a number of conditions where acting quickly with electronic access to passenger information is going to make a lot of difference,” Cetron said.
The story goes on to note airline industry’s general opposition to this plan:
The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, said the plan “represents an unwarranted and insupportable burden on an industry sector that can ill afford it.”
ATA lawyer Katherine Andrus said in an interview that the CDC plan wouldn’t work because of cost, technological difficulty and the time needed to fill out the forms.
“We don’t think that, as proposed, this is a workable approach,” Andrus said.
In the event of a pandemic flu outbreak, this type of system could be a critical and powerful line of defense. Given its potential benefits, I think that the affected stakeholders (primarily the airlines) need to accept that it has to happen, and work with the government to move it forward, in a way that acknowledges their legitimate concerns about implementation, and perhaps partially reimburses them for their efforts, but also leaves no doubt that this has to move forward expeditiously. If we don’t have this sort of system in place in the event of a serious pandemic, the costs to our economy will be much greater that the costs of this system, possibly by a 100x or greater factor.