Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 4, 2006

White House issues pandemic flu implementation plan

Filed under: Biosecurity — by Christian Beckner on May 4, 2006

Yesterday the White House Homeland Security Council released the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. This fact sheet summarizes the 233-page document, and stories in the Boston Globe, CIDRAP, GovExec, and the Los Angeles Times provide perspective on it. From the LA Times story:

The White House on Wednesday unveiled a foreboding report on the nation’s lack of preparedness for a bird flu pandemic, warning that such an outbreak could kill as many as 2 million people and deal a war-like blow to the country’s economic and social fabric. It urged state and local governments to make their own preparations beyond the federal efforts.

In the government’s first detailed look at the potential effects on public health and U.S. society as a whole, the report said a full-blown pandemic could lead to travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, massive absenteeism, an economic slowdown “and civil disturbances and breakdowns in public order.”

It warned that the healthcare system — including doctors, nurses and suppliers of pharmaceuticals — was inadequate to meet the country’s needs in a flu pandemic. “In the event of multiple simultaneous outbreaks, there may be insufficient medical resources or personnel to augment local capabilities,” the report warned.

More broadly, state, local and tribal governments should “anticipate that all sources of external aid may be compromised during a pandemic,” it said, meaning that “local communities will have to address the medical and non-medical effects of the pandemic with available resources.”

While warning that as a last resort, mandatory travel restrictions may be necessary, such limits alone “are unlikely to reduce the total number of people who become ill or the impact the pandemic will have on any one community.”

It’s good to see that the report doesn’t sugarcoat the potential outcomes from a pandemic flu outbreak. Now comes the hard part – providing funding for the plan, and implementing it.

Update (5/5): A good post by David Stephenson on the plan. Also, be sure to check out the Daily Show’s segment on the plan, either on Friday’s reruns or after it’s posted online here in the next few days.

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