Officials Worry About Swine Flu Preparedness Amid Budget Cuts

In light of two reports released this week, public health officials examine preparation plans for a second strain of swine flu amid troubling budget cuts. According to Reuters, "a report by the non-profit group Trust for America's Health released on Thursday found that while the investment in pandemic planning and stockpiling of antiviral medications have paid off, recent cuts in public health departments have meant many did not have adequate resources to carry out flu plans." "The group specifically urged a halt to planned layoffs at state and local health departments, and recommended hospitals improve strategies for handling a large influx of patients."

The report also detailed problems with sick-leave policies as well as plans for school closures and limiting mass gatherings. It described strains on the health care delivery system and recommended that officials stockpile antiviral medications and other supplies, improve vaccine development capabilities and plan for rapid vaccination of all Americans. Reuters also noted that a "report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office this week also said much more needs to be done to close gaps in the U.S. flu preparedness plan, including improving coordination between federal, state and local governments and the private sector." Reuters also reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest case tally: "There are now 11,468 probable and confirmed cases of the new H1N1 swine flu in the United States" (Steenhuysen, 6/4).

CNN described policy recommendations including "that the federal government provide guidance on hospital capacities and sustain the public health work force, despite tough economic times."

The New York Times noted that, despite gaps in planning, "six years of worrying about bird flu did much to prepare the United States for the current swine flu outbreaK" (McNeil Jr., 6/4).

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