Senate Democrats

Democrats Work to Protect Americans From Avian Flu

America Can Do Better than No Action at All

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a leading group of Senate Democrats introduced legislation to help America prepare for and protect from a possible Avian flu pandemic. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid joined together with Senator Barack Obama, Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator Tom Harkin, and Senator Dick Durbin in introducing the “Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act” to provide a comprehensive approach to prepare and protect Americans from this potentially devastating virus. The Senators stressed the importance of preparedness and protection because they know that America can do better than what the Bush Administration has done to date.

“I am greatly concerned about the threat that avian flu poses for the American people and the world and am committed to doing everything we can now to prevent an outbreak and minimize its consequences should one occur,” said Senator Reid. “It is time to finally learn the lessons of September 11th and Hurricane Katrina and do everything we can before a national tragedy strikes in order to protect Americans. Waiting any longer would itself be a national tragedy.”

“This is one of the biggest threats we face today,” said Senator Harkin. “A flu pandemic is not a matter of if – but when. We must heed these warning signs, and take the time to invest in our public infrastructure. Instead of always looking into the rear-view mirror, we must do all we can to prevent a disaster, like avian flu, before it happens.”

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.

“We need to act, because the Administration has failed to prepare adequately for pandemic flu. The danger of a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast was ignored until it was too late. We must not make the same mistake with pandemic flu. Other nations have taken effective steps to prepare, and America cannot afford to continue to lag behind,” said Senator Kennedy.

“We must face the reality that in this age when you can get on a plane in Bangkok and arrive in Chicago just hours later, this is not a problem isolated half a world away but one that could impact us right here at home,” said Senator Obama. “It is imperative that we act quickly and take the necessary steps to close the preparedness gap we face in dealing with what could be a deadly and devastating flu pandemic.”

“The issue of avian flu is one of the critically important issues of our time,” Senator Bayh said. “Leading experts say it is only a matter of time before this deadly disease becomes more efficient in moving from person to person. We should not await that dreadful day, but work proactively to protect the national security interests and the health interests of the American people.”

“More than 115 cases of the Avian Flu have been reported around the world. Where humans were affected by it, over half of them have died. There isn’t anything we can do about the current situation, but there is something we can do about the threat to America. What we can do is step up to this challenge, purchase the antiviral drugs we need now, invest in domestic capabilities for vaccine protection for America, and prepare for emergency care during a flu pandemic,” said Senator Durbin.

The Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act will enable our 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.