States Prep for Possible Swine Flu Pandemic

  • April 29, 2009
  • By Daniel C. Vock and Pauline Vu

As health officials across the country ramp up preparations to battle the swine flu, the head of a national coalition of state health officials warned Congress Tuesday (April 28) that states could be in trouble if infections reach a pandemic level.
Paul Jarris, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, urged a Senate subcommittee to spend more than $1 billion to help states respond to a pandemic flu. He said federal funding cuts for state and local preparedness efforts and layoffs of health workers caused by the recession could hamper states' ability to respond.
Jarris requested $350 million to help states update their pandemic response plans and conduct more drills to practice them. He also wants $122 million to help states buy enough antiviral medicine, like Tamiflu or Relenza, to treat 8 million more people, which would boost the nation's stockpiles to a total of 81 million courses of treatment. Jarris also asked for $563 million to protect doctors, nurses and other health workers with antiviral drugs and protective gear.

On Tuesday President Obama also asked Congress for $1.5 billion to prepare for a flu pandemic.
The swine flu outbreak that originated in Mexico has led to at least 64 confirmed cases in five states: California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas, with the largest number of cases, 45, in New York, and the first death, of a 23-month-old child, in Texas. Other state health departments are reporting more possible cases that have not yet been included in the federal tally.

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