Legislation Provides Swift, Effective Assistance Following Disease Outbreak, Biological Attack
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at improving the government's ability to respond to infectious disease outbreaks, such as flu pandemics, as well as biological attacks and other man-made disasters.
"This year's H1N1 virus highlights the importance of being prepared for a serious infectious disease outbreak across the country. My bill helps make sure that should we face an even more serious pandemic or biological attack in the future, our government is prepared to act swiftly and effectively to get the disease under control and keep Americans safe," Pryor said.
Pryor's first bill, the Emergency Response Act of 2009, closes a disaster-response loophole in current law by adding public health emergencies, terrorist acts or other man-made incidents to the definition of a "major disaster" under the Stafford Act. This would make a flu outbreak or other health emergency eligible for federal agency support, coordination activities, technical and advisory assistance, and medical supply distribution efforts. The bill also calls for the establishment of best practices for disseminating information to the homeland security community.
"If a catastrophic outbreak occurs, every minute is critical, so we need to be able to access all available resources immediately. This is especially important for our rural communities, which are often the hardest areas to quickly deploy medical supplies, equipment, and care in the event of a crisis," Pryor said.
The second bill, the Defense Against Infectious Diseases Act of 2009, addresses gaps in preparedness activities by ensuring the federal government consistently updates their pandemic plans and strategies with the assistance of state, local, and tribal stakeholders. The legislation also requires the federal government to identify alternative medical care facilities and resources -- such as medical equipment, personnel, and supplies -- to ensure we do not face shortages in the event of a serious infectious disease outbreak or biological attack.
"An out-of-date plan is not a plan," Pryor said. "In order to be effective, our pandemic response strategy needs to incorporate the latest technologies and medical developments, an accurate assessment of resources, and a current analysis of potential challenges. This legislation will help ensure that if and when the next flu pandemic occurs, we will have a well-oiled machine ready to spring into action."
Pryor is the chair of the State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness Subcommittee for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.