for National Geographic News
A U.S. national response plan is being finalized to combat a potential pandemic of avian influenza.
Expected to be approved by President George W. Bush in the next week or two, the proposed bird flu plan is the first attempt to spell out how the federal government would respond to an outbreak that threatens to kill as many as two million Americans.
The draft plan reportedly calls for the closing of schools and large gatherings. Other emergency measures include drive-through medical exams and shifting production of U.S. money to foreign sites, in the event that the usual facilities are sidelined.
The Washington Post yesterday reported details of the plan, which has not yet been officially announced.
Such a pandemic could make as many as 90 million Americans sick in a worst-case scenario, the plan warns.
Christian Sandrock is an infectious-disease expert at the University of California, Davis.
While he has not seen the draft plan, he welcomes a national preparedness strategy. But, he says, the real question is how it will be implemented on the local level.
"If they just say a certain percentage of people will be infected and you need to close schools, well, that's easily said but it doesn't mean it will work," Sandrock said.
"The key is to outline who gets the authority, how resources are going to be allocated on a local level, and how it's going to be managed locally."
Shifting Air Traffic
The H5N1 avian influenza virusthe strain that currently poses the greatest threatis found primarily in domestic and wild birds.
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