Tick. Tick. Tick.
The nation’s 5,000 state and local health departments are rushing to plan for an epidemic of avian flu, but they say they are hobbled by a lack of money and guidance from the federal government.
Only a few places, particularly Seattle and New York City, have made significant progress, experts say. Most departments say they expect to be unprepared for at least a year.
If H5N1 arrives here and takes a toll, it will not be the fault of the federal government, anymore than the debacle in New Orleans was a result of the federal government. The state and local governments are already on notice, and any failure to have effective response plans, treatment guidelines and quarantine procedures in place will fall on the heads of the local and state governemnts that have been receiving warnings since last summer.
Check out the home page of the San Bernadino County Department of Health. Here’s a November 21, 2005 account of flu preparation in California dn Orange County. HHS Secretary Levitt is touring the country trying to gig the state and local governments into preparing response plans and, crucially, running drills on responses to first cases.
Blogger Mark Daniels noted a few months back that there is a political consequence to avian flu preparedness or lack thereof. Daniels was focused on the presidential race in ’08, but the immediate political effect of unpreparedness will fall –and should– on the governors who are unprepared and for the local governments that chose not to run drills or refused an sort of appropriations in support of planning.
FYI: From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Avian Flu News Tracker:
2:45 p.m.: U.S. and U.N. health experts arrived in Iraq, and officials said that at least eight people are in hospital suffering symptoms akin to the deadly H5N1 strain.
A subscription is required to access the Avian Flu News Tracker. At $100 per year, the first expenditure of local health departments should be for that subscription. Because the online WSJ.com is practicing daily for full coverage, it will have figured out how to sort through the nes and the rumors when and if H5N1 arrives in the U.S.