posted on Oct, 9 2005 @ 08:05 PM
America 'faces worst disaster in its history'
From Tim Reid in Washington
A PLAN drawn up by the Bush Administration to combat a pandemic bird flu outbreak reveals that America is grossly unprepared to deal with what would
likely be the worst disaster in US history.
The 381-page draft plan, leaked by health officials who claim that it contains fundamental failures, predicts that a full-scale outbreak could kill as
many as 1.9 million Americans and put 8.5 million in hospital at a cost of more than $450 billion (£256 billion).
Hospitals would quickly become overwhelmed, riots would break out at vaccine clinics, civil unrest would sweep the country, and power and food would
be in short supply, according to the plan, which has been years in the making. It calls for quarantine and travel restrictions but concedes that those
measures “are unlikely to delay introduction of pandemic disease into the US by more than a month or two”.
A large outbreak in Asia, because of modern travel patterns, would be likely to reach the US within “a few months or even weeks”. The plan, which
was passed to The New York Times, calls for the ability to manufacture 600 million vaccine doses within six months, more than ten times the
country’s current capacity.
The document, called the Pandemic Influenza Strategic Plan, also calls for a national stockpile of 133 courses of flu treatment. The Bush
Administration has purchased only 4.3 million courses at present.
On Friday, President Bush met officials from the country’s top six vaccine producers at the White House to urge them to step up production and to
discuss ways to increase their production capacity.
Health officials claim that the plan fails to place a central figure in charge of co-ordinating a national response to a bird flu outbreak. After the
Bush Administration’s disastrous initial response to Hurricane Katrina, and Mr Bush’s subsequent admission that a lack of clear and unified
central leadership exacerbated the disaster, the officials told The New York Times: “We don’t want to have a FEMA-like [Federal Emergency
Management Agency] response, where it’s not clear who’s running what.”
The officials conceded, however, that the plan was a “major milestone”.
One of the most controversial parts of the plan addresses who should be given the vaccines first. The military and National Guard are not mentioned.