Tags: unprepared | for | swine | flu

U.S. Unprepared for Second Swine Flu Wave: GAO

Thursday, 30 Jul 2009 08:06 AM

By Carrie Wells, McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- The federal government isn't prepared for a potential outbreak of swine flu this fall, a Government Accountability Office report released to Congress concluded Wednesday.

Furthermore, said the GAO, Congress' nonpartisan investigative arm, federal agencies haven't addressed nearly half of the 24 recommendations it made last month.

William Coor, the deputy secretary of health and human services, disputed the findings.

"Given the speed at which the virus has spread we felt our work and coordination has been outstanding," he said. However, Jane Holl Lute, the deputy secretary of homeland security, acknowledged that, "We still have work to do."

The GAO agreed, saying that if a severe outbreak struck:

  • Federal, state and local governments would have trouble coordinating with one another.

  • The number of beds and medical supplies would be insufficient.

  • Plans to protect federal workers aren't adequate.

    Health officials worldwide acknowledge that the virus has reached pandemic proportions and could strike more severely in the fall. In the U.S., more than 43,000 people have contracted the virus, and so far, 302 have died.

    Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., called the report "startling" after it was presented to the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday.

    The committee voted unanimously to urge the federal departments to respond to the GAO's recommendations within three months.

    "Based on our survey, progress seems to be limited," said Bernice Steinhardt, the GAO's director of strategic issues. The rosy outlook of the agencies could be because they still haven't tested what they'd do in a severe outbreak, she added.

    Lute listed the steps that her agency has taken to prepare, including reaching out to Native American tribal governments and drafting a response plan.

    Coor also defended his department's actions.

    Coor added that HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the next few weeks will give directions to state and local governments on how to deal with a big outbreak.

    Swine flu, or H1N1, emerged in April in the U.S., and by June, the World Health Organization said it had grown to pandemic proportions. The WHO said it has killed at least 816 people worldwide. The Southern Hemisphere is now in its regular flu season, and swine flu there has been particularly deadly.

    Coor said a vaccine won't be ready for several more months, after trials are finished. He also said federal and state governments have stockpiled 75 million to 100 million antiviral treatments, a number he called "sufficient."

    National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley told the committee the federal government communicated poorly with federal workers earlier this year.

    For example, federal employees were forbidden from wearing face masks to avoid getting the virus unless they were within six feet of a person who seemed likely to have swine flu.

    The committee's chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wasn't happy with the report.

    "Given this country's recent experience with disasters, it is hard to believe that there are those who underestimate the importance of plans and drills," he said. "Our children are taught in school what to do in a fire drill. They are not taught to wait until a fire starts, yell instructions and hope everyone makes it to the exit."

    Copyright 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Reprinted Via Newscom.

  • -

    Around the Web
    Join the Newsmax Community
    Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
    >> Register to share your comments with the community.
    >> Login if you are already a member.
    blog comments powered by Disqus
    Zip Code:
    Privacy: We never share your email.
    Hot Topics
    Follow Newsmax
    Like us
    on Facebook
    Follow us
    on Twitter
    Add us
    on Google Plus
    Around the Web
    Top Stories
    You May Also Like

    WashPost: Falling Gas Prices Boost Obama's Approval Rating

    Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 09:24 AM

    While positive economic indicators may be playing a role in President Barack Obama's recent boost in job approval rating . . .

    ISIS: We Will Cut Off Obama's Head, Turn US Into Caliphate

    Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 09:14 AM

    In a sickening new video from the Islamic State, the terror group has vowed to cut off President Barack Obama's head and . . .

    Paul Ryan Uses Cheesy Prop To Make His Point on Trade

    Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 09:11 AM

    Rep. Paul Ryan had a point to make Tuesday, and he made it in a way that would have made his home state proud: He waved  . . .

    Most Commented

    Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

    America's News Page
    ©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
    All Rights Reserved