Date registered: Jan 2005
Vehicle: 2006 ML350
Location: Chicago, IL
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What will happen if the flu comes to a bird near you?
This is coming to neighborhood near you....
If bird flu strikes the USA, is there a proven vaccine to protect you?
Even if there were, only one plant in the nation produces flu vaccine, which takes months to make. And once it's made, few states or cities have workable plans for rapid distribution.
Now, for the good news: Avian flu is not an immediate threat in the USA. And on Tuesday, President Bush, albeit belatedly, put forth a strategy to deal with a bird flu pandemic. He laid out a $7 billion federal plan to stockpile antiviral drugs, rebuild the U.S. vaccine industry, spur development of faster ways to produce vaccines, and improve local flu surveillance and vaccine distribution.
All worthwhile steps, but will they work? That depends on when bird flu gets here. Bush's plan will take years to implement.
It also depends on whether federal, state and local officials can muster a sense of urgency that has been lacking. And whether they can solve such contentious issues as who should be vaccinated first, given that supplies inevitably will be scarce for days or weeks after the flu strikes.
For nearly two years, scientists have warned about a virus, known as H5N1, that has killed millions of birds in Asia and Europe. In rare cases, the virus has jumped from bird to human, infecting 122 people and killing more than half. The concern is that it could mutate into a virus that is easily passed among people and is more deadly than the ordinary annual forms of influenza. Then, the danger would be global.
The USA is a long way from ready, and very-recent history raises doubts about the administration's ability to prepare. After 9/11, the Homeland Security Department spent billions preparing for disasters. Yet its response to Katrina was nearly as disastrous as the hurricane itself. Now, Bush has handed that same agency a key role in coordinating the pandemic response.
Closer to home, people have reason to question local public health capabilities. According to a report by the non-profit Trust for America's Health, 20 states didn't even have a publicly available plan last year to respond to a pandemic. Pennsylvania did but kept its plan so guarded the public couldn't see it, making it almost worthless. A summary is now posted on its health department's website.
This strain of avian flu might never reach our shores. Even so, a flu pandemic occurs on average every 30 years, and with it will come panic and shortages. That can't be stopped, but a plan developed before a crisis, not in the midst of one, can dramatically reduce the chaos and the human toll.
2006 ML 350 - Black, Appearance Package, Navigation System, Entertainment Package, Sunroof Package, Heated Seats, IPod Integration