Virginia Preparing for Avian Flu

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

March 23, 2006

Governor Tim Kaine hosted the Virginia Pandemic Influenza Summit in Richmond on Thursday. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, along with the governor, say if there is a flu pandemic, states cannot depend entirely on the federal government for protection. The Secretary also cautioned that no state is prepared to handle such an outbreak.

Today's summit comes on the heals of a World Health Organization announcement this week that the H5-N1 strain of the Bird Flu has already killed more than 100 people worldwide. Health officials and state executive are preparing for the near certainty that the strain will appear in the U.S. They say local governments including those in Virginia need to be ready.

"Much in the public health area depends on strong communication between the state and the 134 cities and counties where Virginians live, work, recreate [and] worship," said Governor Kaine.

"The bottom line," cautioned Secretary Michael Leavitt, "is that if there's a pandemic in the 21st century, it's going to reach Virginia. And it's going to reach hometowns all over America."

The federal government has already given Virginia $2.2 million in funding for Avian Flu preparedness. The state is also set to receive one million doses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, but not until sometime next year.

At Thursday's summit the governor declined to comment on whether he thinks the amount funding and vaccines are enough.

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