Tom Harkin - U.S. Seante

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), along with a group of Senate Democrats, today introduced legislation to help America prepare for and protect from a possible Avian flu pandemic. The “Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act” would provide a comprehensive approach to prepare and protect Americans from this potentially devastating virus.

“This is one of the biggest threats we face today,” said 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.

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.

Harkin joined together with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senators Barack Obama, Evan Bayh, Edward Kennedy, and Dick Durbin to introduce this legislation.

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