Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) announced today that she has joined a leading group of Senate Democrats to introduce legislation to help America prepare for and protect from a possible Avian flu pandemic. The Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act will provide a comprehensive approach to prepare and protect Americans from this potentially devastating virus.
"As we continue to clean up after the federal government's failure to effectively prepare and respond to the devastation throughout the Gulf Coast, we must make sure we do not see a repeat event with the upcoming threat of Avian flu to Americans throughout the nation," said Senator Mikulski. "We must be ready to react and respond in the event of an emergency. America can do better."
Avian flu, also known as the bird flu, is a virus that to date has only been passed from birds to humans. However, experts publicly predict that it is only a matter of time before the virus mutates and can be easily spread between humans creating a widespread public health crisis. In a matter of weeks, an outbreak in China, Vietnam or Cambodia could spread rapidly and trigger a world-wide outbreak facilitated by international travel and globalization.
The Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act will enable the nation to take crucial steps forward in protecting Americans from an Avian flu pandemic. The bill will:
- Prepare for a pandemic by finalizing, implementing and funding pandemic preparedness and response plans.
- Improve surveillance and international partnerships to monitor the spread of avian flu and detect the emergence of a flu strain with pandemic potential immediately.
- Protect Americans through the development, production and distribution of an effective vaccine.
- Plan ahead for a pandemic by stockpiling antivirals, vaccines and other essential medications and supplies.
- Strengthen our public health infrastructure; inform Americans by increasing awareness and education about pandemic flu.
- Commit to protecting Americans by devoting adequate resources to pandemic preparedness.
Co-sponsors of the legislation include Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).