A report from the White House has revealed that the US is not prepared for a possible avian influenza pandemic.
Although the US has helped several countries prepare for a bird flu pandemic, the country lacks the rapid tests and hospital capacity to cope with the threatening virus.
The US produced a pandemic influenza plan one year ago and, although hundreds of taskes ans assignments have been assigned and successfully completed, the most difficult tasks remain incomplete.
Limited capability and capacity
Assistant to President George W. Bush for biodefense, Dr Rajeev Venkayya, says the US has limited surveillance capability. Additionally, the hospitals are already overwhelmed with day-to-day patients. He adds that in the event of a bird flu pandemic treating the sick in a hospital environment would be virtually impossible as there will not be sufficient health or medical capacity to take care of the large number of individuals.
Taking a more positive look at the situation, the report states that a billion dollars has been allocated to upgrading the ability of the country to mass produce vaccines. Apparently some 129,000 animal health workers and 17,000 human health workers in H5N1 surveillance and outbreak response have been trained.
The country may soon reach an agreement with Canada and Mexico that would put an agreement into place for the 3 countries to jointly watch for the virus and, if necessary, respond to it.