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TMCNet:  Enzi: We Must Respond Aggressively to Prevent Flu Pandemic

[April 29, 2009]

Enzi: We Must Respond Aggressively to Prevent Flu Pandemic

Apr 29, 2009 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- Wednesday, April 29, 2009 ENZI: WE MUST RESPOND AGGRESSIVELY TO PREVENT FLU PANDEMIC Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today said that while the United States is more prepared to fight a pandemic flu outbreak than ever before, there are still improvements to the response and treatment systems that must be made.


"To prevent swine flu from becoming the next pandemic, and to ensure that health and safety of Americans and individuals around the world, we must respond aggressively to this threat," Enzi said. "Our agencies must work closely together and with our global partners to stop the spread of swine flu and help individuals who may be infected find the right treatment as early as possible." At today's HELP Committee hearing on "The Swine Flu Epidemic: The Public Health and Medical Response," Enzi highlighted the strides the country has made to prepare for a public health emergency.

"Over the last five years, Congress and the previous administration have taken actions to prepare our country for potential disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies," Enzi said. "Senator Burr passed a preparedness bill that put in place the important tools that are now allowing us to respond to the swine flu outbreak. To the extent that we are prepared to deal with this crisis today, Senator Burr deserves much of the credit." Enzi noted that the Senate stimulus package included $870 million for pandemic influenza preparedness that was stripped at the last minute.

"Preparedness dollars should not be compromised by politics," Enzi said. "Although the United States is more prepared for pandemic flu than ever before, there are still gaps in the system that we must fill to ensure that states are able to respond quickly and effectively. We must continue to prepare for another pandemic flu outbreak by funding research into newer, better, less resistant treatments." "While I am reassured by the fact that our public health monitoring system caught this outbreak early on, I am concerned about the ability and capacity of CDC and local communities to test and treat for swine flu if it continues to spread." Enzi said that Senator Burr's legislation, "The Pandemic and All-Hazards Protection Act" (PL 109-417), which Congress passed in 2006 when Senator Burr was Chairman of the HELP Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness, helped the U.S. prepare for the swine flu threat by: *Providing the authority to purchase and distribute across the country 50 million treatments of Tamiflu, which has been effective in treating swine flu; *Promoting the development of new diagnostic tools that are being used to evaluate and test for diseases quickly; *Enhancing coordination procedures, so that the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) is now working closely with state and local agencies to train and prepare communities to respond to public health emergencies; and, * Establishing the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to provide an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of vaccines, drugs, therapies and diagnostic tools for public health emergencies.

#### Statement of Michael B. Enzi Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Hearing The Swine Flu Epidemic: The Public Health and Medical Response April 29, 2009 We are facing the early stages of what may become a global pandemic. An infection that appears to be swine flu has claimed over 100 lives in Mexico. Other countries from Canada to New Zealand have confirmed cases. This disease knows no borders.

While the World Health Organization has yet to declare a pandemic, the early information on swine flu bears eerie parallels to the 1918 flu pandemic. That virus took a devastating toll on the United States and other nations, ultimately killing 50 million people worldwide. To prevent swine flu from becoming the next pandemic, and to ensure the health and safety of Americans and individuals around the world, we must respond aggressively to this threat. Our agencies must work closely together and with our global partners to stop the spread of swine flu and to help individuals who may be infected find the right treatment as early as possible.

Over the last five years, Congress and the previous administration have taken actions to prepare our country for potential disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies.

In particular, I want to single out and thank Senator Richard Burr for all that he has done to make sure we are better prepared today for this potential crisis. He and his staff put in months of hard work to craft the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act that put in place the important tools that are now allowing us to respond to the swine flu outbreak.

Senator Burr's legislation provided the authority to purchase 50 million treatments of Tamiflu, which has so far been effective in treating swine flu. It also helped promote the development of new diagnostic tools to quickly evaluate to see if illnesses are related. Other countries are now relying on these technologies for quick testing.

In addition to expanding our nation's supply of flu therapies and increasing the global supply of diagnostics, Senator Burr's bill established the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, also known as BARDA, which provides federal coordination for the development and procurement of vaccines, drugs, therapies and diagnostic tools for public health emergencies.

His legislation also enhanced coordination procedures, and now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with state and local public health departments to train and prepare communities to respond to public health emergencies.

It has been my experience that we in Washington seldom work on a solution ahead of time and it is even rarer when what we work on turns out to be needed and we got it right! To the extent that we are better prepared to deal with this crisis today, Richard Burr deserves much of the credit.

Although the United States is more prepared for pandemic flu today than ever before, there are still gaps in the system that we must fill to ensure that states are able to respond quickly and effectively. We must continue to prepare for another pandemic flu outbreak, like the one in 1918, by funding research to find newer, better, less resistant treatments. While I am reassured by the fact that our public health monitoring system was able to catch this outbreak early on, I am concerned about the ability and capacity of CDC and local communities to test and treat for swine flu should this outbreak continue to spread.

I welcome Dr. Besser and Dr. Fauci today and look forward to hearing about how CDC and NIH have worked together to prepare for pandemic flu and what actions they are taking in response to the swine flu outbreak. We need to be sure that we are doing everything in our power to bring attention to this global threat and stop the spread of swine flu before it becomes a pandemic.

I look forward to the testimony today.

####

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