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Arjuna 11-01-2005 06:16 AM

Bird flu on the launch pad
 
Bush to unveil bird flu strategy
[img align=left]http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2005/HEALTH/conditions/10/31/us.flu.plan/story.bush.ap.jpg[/img]
Update to national response has been in works for a year

Tuesday, November 1, 2005; Posted: 2:12 a.m. EST (07:12 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush will unveil a national strategy for bird flu on Tuesday, in a bid to reduce the chance that an outbreak among people could become widespread, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said.

The strategy -- to be unveiled at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland -- will include plans to identify an outbreak as soon as it appears, work to contain it and treat it "to the best extent possible," McClellan told reporters Monday.
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In addition, scientists are redoubling their efforts to create the next generation of vaccine, one that would be cell-based rather than the current egg-based versions, McClellan said. Cell-based vaccines could be mass-produced quickly, which could prove to be a critical advantage in the event of a pandemic.

"It's something we need to take seriously," he said. "That's why the president has been leading the way."
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Garden-variety influenza causes about 36,000 deaths per year in the United States and is responsible for an annual total cost of more than $12 billion, according to a draft of the strategy, obtained by CNN.

A pandemic of bird flu "could dwarf this impact by overwhelming our health and medical capabilities, potentially resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of hospitalizations, and hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs," said the draft, dated October 24.

The Bush administration has sought about $70 million in next year's budget for mobile hospitals that could be set up in affected areas to handle large numbers of patients, McClellan said.
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The U.S. government already is buying $162.5 million worth of vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu strain from two companies -- Sanofi-Aventis and Chiron Corp. It also is ordering millions of doses of Tamiflu and Relenza, two antiflu drugs believed to offer some protection against the bird flu.

Lawmakers angry at months of delay have already given Bush money to begin those preparations: $8 billion in emergency funding that the Senate, pushed by Democrats, passed on Thursday.

The money is to be spent at the president's discretion, but senators said it should be used both for medications and vaccine and for beefing up hospitals and other systems to detect and contain a super-flu.


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