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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

President Bush on Monitoring Birds for Bird Flu

Today President Bush held a press conference to announce the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.

The plan states that the government will "expand our domestic livestock and wildlife surveillance activities to ensure early warning of the spread of an outbreak to our shores" (p.7).

To do this, President Bush announced in his speech that "to strengthen domestic surveillance, my administration is launching the National Bio-surveillance Initiative. This initiative will help us rapidly detect, quantify and respond to outbreaks of disease in humans and animals, and deliver information quickly to state, and local, and national and international health officials. By creating systems that provide continuous situational awareness, we're more likely to be able to stop, slow, or limit the spread of the pandemic and save American lives."

Hopefully, this will be a long-term plan to monitor birds for more than just the current H5N1 strain of avian influenza, and will become a system for tracking the spread and evolution of all avian influenza viruses. But it probably won't.

In fact, this National Biosurveillance Initiative has been announced before (see overview here), but as part of the War on Terror. So, it remains to be seen how serious, comprehensive, and long-term this monitoring scheme will be. So far, no details about The Department of the Interior - H5N1 National Surveillance Efforts have been released.

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