Senate approves $1.5 billion in flu pandemic preparedness funding as Obama names infectious disease expert to lead CDC

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The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to include $1.5 billion in pandemic preparedness in a defense and foreign aid spending bill. The move comes in the wake of the recent swine flu wave, and amidst revelations that lawmakers removed nearly $900 million in flu pandemic preparedness funding from the recent stimulus package.

Democrats had removed $870 million in flu pandemic funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act in order to gain support from Republicans, who generally opposed the measure due to its high cost. Once the swine flu began infecting thousands of people around the world, lawmakers raced to re-fund the program. And though the majority of cases of swine flu thus far have been considered mild, World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan Friday warned against a false sense of security, suggesting that the worst might not be over. Many epidemiologists and public health officials are predicting a resurgence of the H1N1 (swine flu) strain of influenza this fall.

Also on Friday, President Obama named New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden to the top spot at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frieden will assume his new role in June. In addition to crusading for healthcare change in New York City, Frieden is also a renowned expert on infectious disease.