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.
Read the full report States Prep for Possible Swine Flu Pandemic on Stateline.org.