Tick. Tick. Tick.
2:45 a.m.: Indian authorities sealed off the western town of Navapur, which is at the center of the country’s first outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, allowing no one in or out, police said. Roads to Navapur were closed and trains crossing the area were not being permitted to stop at stations inside the town, said P.G. Chowdhury of the local police. “No one will be allowed to come in. Those who are inside will stay in, the ones outside will stay out,” he said. Mr. Chowdhury said the senior officials in the state had ordered the town sealed as a precaution, a day after workers finished slaughtering 700,000 chickens to stop the spread of bird flu.
Note the phrase “sealed off.” We hope that in fact this was a precaution and not a necessity and that the humans are sick with some other ordinary virus.
Either way, the Indian government’s rapid decision to “seal off” an entire town poses the same question I posed to Majority Leader Frist on Tuesday: Who’s got the authority to do such a thing in the U.S.? Without a clear statutue detailing presidential versus gubenatorial authroity, will the arival of H5N1 in the U.S. –even if confined to birds, but necessitating quick action to cull flocks etc– set up another Katrina-like dance of the federalists?