Swine Flu Front Burner in Washington
U.S. officials are closing schools in California and Texas following reports that more than 40 people in five states have been sickened by this new strain of the swine flu.
Cases have been reported as far away as Israel, New Zealand, and Spain, and as close as California, Kansas, Ohio, New York and Texas.
No deaths have been reported in the U.S. but in Mexico 1,600 cases of swine flu have been identified with 20 confirmed deaths and perhaps more than 100 others, some young and healthy adults.
Swine Flu Hearings
Three hearings are planned this week. On Tuesday, the Senate will address how to protect the public and coordinate efforts among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Agriculture Department, and Homeland Security.
Public health experts have been expecting a pandemic, or viral outbreak for years, however $870 million in funding was removed from the government’s fiscal 2008 budget and in the 2009 economic stimulus bill after a number of senators objected.
"It certainly wouldn't have made a difference in terms of the response to what's happening today, (but) it will slow down the level of preparedness that we could have at a later date," said Jeff Levi, the group's executive director of Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit that focuses on emergency preparedness to the Washington Post.
In her own defense, Sen. Susan Collins tells the Post they felt the funding should have gone through the regular appropriations and not the stimulus bill.
Government funding for a flu vaccine was boosted after there was a reported domestic flu shot shortage in 2004. Five companies received $1 billion to help rebuild the vaccine stores, though the effectiveness against this new strain is uncertain.
The CDC is preparing the groundwork to make a new vaccine that contains elements of the avian, human and swine flu viruses, all contained in this new mutation.
The Obama administration declared a public health emergency on Sunday and the president had chosen as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate sometime Tuesday if she gets the 60 votes needed.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that about 70,000 backers of Sarah Palin are trying to derail the confirmation. The TeamSarah Web site sent out an “action alert” asking members to call Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-Kansas) to vote against Sebelius’ confirmation.
The group is trying to have women elected who oppose abortion and Gov. Sebelius recently vetoed new abortions regulations in her state.
In The States
The first case of swine flu was identified in a student in northern California in a Sacramento suburb who had just returned from a trip to Cancun, Mexico.
That school has been closed, while closer to the border with Mexico, ten other cases have been confirmed in southern California. San Antonio has a third confirmed case and 14 area schools have been closed.
A New York City high school in Queens is testing more than 100 sick students. 45 cases have confirmed or likely cases of swine flu among students, some of whom had visited Mexico during spring break. #