Leavitt: Successor should continue pandemic flu preparations

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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt in a speech Wednesday said continued preparation for a global flu pandemic should be a priority of his successor.

A combined effort between federal, state and local governments will be critical in the event of a pandemic. That is why the next person to head HHS should continue preparations, even in the face of restricted state budgets and an economic downturn, the secretary said. Building state and federal vaccine stockpiles and creating methods by which to distribute medicine are still challenges, he said.

Pandemic preparation was the topic of conversation at a round-table discussion after the secretary's speech, as well. Experts on infectious diseases highlighted ways in which a global flu pandemic could disrupt many supplies to the U.S. According to those experts, 19 vitally important drugs, such as insulin, are produced outside the United States. A global flu pandemic could cut off the supply chain, leading to more deaths due to lack of medicine than from flu itself.
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