Hearing Of The House Committee On Energy And Commerce - Preparing For The 2009 Pandemic Flu
Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you Secretary Sebelius for being here today to give
us an update on the H1N1 situation.
When the H1N1 virus first hit, it was devastating. It caused sickness, it generated fear, it
caused panic and it caused many deaths. There were many unknowns about the virus.
We did not know how the disease would present itself over time, how well it would
respond to the antiviral medications on the market today or how quickly it would develop
resistance to those drugs, and we did not know if and how quickly we would be able to develop
and manufacture a vaccine.
While we have learned more about the virus and we have made progress on a vaccine, it
has spread worldwide, across continents and hemispheres. It is now a level 6 pandemic, the
highest warning level there is. It has continued to spread in the United States during the summer
months, which is unusual for the influenza. That adds to the unknowns and reinforces the fact we
still have to take is seriously.
In New Jersey alone, 17 people have died since the beginning of the outbreak and over
570 have been hospitalized. And we have yet to see this disease at its strongest. In addition, the
peak of this flu coincides with the normal flu season, which on its own can be extremely taxing
on the health care delivery system.
I am also curious to hear how the federal government is tackling the fact that this flu
tends to affect individuals under 50 years of age, unlike the seasonal flu that hits the elderly the
hardest. The younger population does not deal with disease often and tends to not seek medical
care as readily.
There have been many questions about our nation's ability to respond to medical
emergencies. Unfortunately, it is hard to justify spending money on programs that are in place IN
CASE something bad happens, especially since so many programs that are needed on a daily
basis have been chronically underfunded. But as history has taught us, grand scale disease
outbreaks can be devastating. At a time when our economy is just beginning to mend, and the
number of the uninsured is rising, we must now more than ever be prepared for such a situation.
We don't want to add to the health insurance crisis and we don't want to hinder the economic
I want to commend you and your team Secretary, for the excellent work you have done
on this issue. During the first wave of the virus, I know you and your staff were working around
the clock to provide tests and test results to states, develop a vaccine, educate state and local
governments, and keep the public informed of the latest information on the virus and how best to
protect themselves from becoming sick. Thank you and I look forward to hearing more from
you today on how the federal government is preparing for this next wave of H1N1.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and I yield back the balance of my time.