DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 23, 2005)
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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 3010, the Fiscal Year 2006 Labor HHS Appropriations Act.
This bill contains funding for many important programs to protect our working men and women, provide for the education of our Nation's children, and support healthcare needs.
Specifically, I want to commend Chairman REGULA and the Appropriations Committee for working with me to include increased funding in this bill to ensure that our country is better prepared against the emerging threat of a pandemic influenza. As the chairman noted so eloquently in his opening statement, this bill is about setting priorities and the chairman has rightfully focused increased resources on this very real threat to our Nation's health and security.
The chairman has rightfully included in this bill $530,000,000 for the Strategic National Stockpile, which is $63 million above the 2005 funding level to expand our Nation's strategic national stockpile of antiviral treatments as well as $120 million to ensure a year-round influenza vaccine production capacity in the U.S. and the development and implementation of rapidly expandable influenza production technologies.
The avian flu is a huge health risk and national security concern that we cannot ignore.
The Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have both acknowledged that the avian flu is a leading and quickly emerging threat to our population and that of other nations.
Currently, the avian flu is very contagious among birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys. It is believed that most cases of this flu in humans has resulted from contact with sick birds.
Health experts warn that a global pandemic could occur if avian flu eventually undergoes genetic changes, making it easily contagious among humans. Such an event could create a global pandemic, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and worldwide.
Already, the avian flu has killed 54 people in Southeast Asia in the past year, and just last week we learned of new human cases in Vietnam and a new case in Indonesia.
In response, the World Health Organization has again issued warnings to all governments urging them to act swiftly to control the spread of flu before it mutates into a form that can be easily transmitted among humans and become far deadlier. And further, these same health experts have urged all countries to increase their stockpiles of available antiviral treatments so that we are prepared for a worst case scenario.
This morning, I read with great interest Mort Kondracke's column in Roll Call, where he cited a cover story in the summer edition of the journal Foreign Affairs as saying avian flu could be "the next pandemic." According to his column, the journal goes on to refer to avian flu as being "far more dangerous than the Spanish flu that killed 50 million people worldwide in 1918 and 1919, including 675,000 in the United States."
Mr. Chairman, we must prevent what is happening in Southeast Asia from spreading and reaching the American continent. If Americans are left unprotected and unprepared for an outbreak, there could be dire consequences.
Today, the national Strategic Stockpile includes antiviral treatment for just one percent of the population. If an avian flu pandemic occurred today, this would leave millions of Americans susceptible to infection, and possibly death.
The threat of avian flu spreading across our borders is not going away, and neither can our commitment to protecting the American people from such a risk. The funding included in this bill for the purchase of antiviral vaccines and ongoing efforts to develop an effective vaccine against the avian flu is hugely necessary for the security and health of all Americans.
Again, I commend the chairman for placing the highest priority on this urgent need and I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
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