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Report: Nation Not Ready for Pandemic Flu

The Committee on Homeland Security released a majority staff report examining the nation’s state of preparedness and response capabilities in the event of a pandemic influenza outbreak. The report identifies current weaknesses and provides recommendations for what Congress, the incoming administration and the public and private sectors can do to achieve national readiness to combat this threat.

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., and former Subcommittee Chairman for Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity and Science and Technology James R. Langevin, D-R.I., released the report, “Getting Beyond Getting Ready for Pandemic Influenza,” on Jan. 14.

The report highlights 16 weaknesses in the outgoing Bush administration’s approach for pandemic flu preparedness, which fall into the following categories:

  • Early warning and detection systems are inadequate;
  • The execution of key planning activities is incomplete;
  • Challenges posed by key medical response requirements are only partially addressed; and
  • The current levels of preparedness for pandemic flu are unclear.

The report also provided 15 critical recommendations for actions that can improve the nation’s preparedness, including:

  • Establish effective management and coordination;
  • Address and meet key medical requirements;
  • Evaluate and update plans; and
  • Improve early warning and detection.

According to the report, achieving readiness will require strong leadership from the White House; continued tough oversight from Congress; courage to talk about the possible circumstances of an outbreak; and the drive to make every effort now to save lives in the future.

Still Not Prepared

“It is possible that the next influenza pandemic will result in hundreds of thousands to millions of deaths – even here in the [United States],” Chairman Thompson said in a statement. “Further, pandemic influenza could destroy the security of our nation and homeland. Yet despite the horrific consequences, we still are not prepared as a nation to fully withstand the impact of such a devastating widespread biological event.”

Thompson added that the administration change presents a new opportunity to ensure that the nation is ready to address pandemic influenza. The House Committee on Homeland Security looks forward to working with the Obama Administration to address this threat and achieve national readiness, he explained.

“The will to meet and overcome pandemic influenza is as great a mission as any on the global battlefield. Our success depends on keeping up the fight until pandemic influenza is overcome,” Thompson said.

The Committee on Homeland Security will continue to examine issues related to a possible pandemic, including preventing the spread of the disease as soon as possible; deterring its use for biological terrorism; preparing for the pandemic; detecting the pandemic quickly; responding to the devastating impact of the pandemic; recovering from the pandemic; and mitigating the impact of the disease.

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