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Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005

Location: Washington, DC

EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005--Continued -- (Senate - April 21, 2005)


Mr. OBAMA. I see that the distinguished ranking member of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Senator LEAHY is here on the Senate floor. I am wondering it he would take just a moment to discuss with me the critical issue of the avian flu.

Mr. President, an outbreak of the avian flu would be an international calamity. In this age when you can get on a plane in Bangkok and arrive in Chicago or Burlington in hours, we must face the reality that this threat is not a problem isolated half a world away, but is one that could affect people in Illinois, Vermont, and all across America. The director of the Centers for Disease Control recognized the grave consequences this virus could pose to international health when she recently stated that ``this is a very ominous situation for the globe ..... [this is] the most important threat we are facing right now.'' It is something that is clearly an emergency and is appropriately addressed in the Iraq Supplemental.

At this point, humans contract the virus overwhelmingly by coming into contact with infected animals, and once contracted, the virus is extremely deadly--a 65 to 75 percent mortality rate for humans--especially because there is no proven vaccine for the H5N1 strain. Further, effective treatments for this strain of the virus are not widely available and must be delivered within 24 hours.

The recent trends with respect to the spread of the avian flu are very alarming. Over the last few months, there is growing evidence which suggests that the virus may be mutating and could eventually result in a form that is transmittable from human to human. If this were to occur, it could cause the deaths of millions of people, seriously damage economic activity in Southeast Asia, and cause panic and instability throughout the region. Moreover, because of the dynamic nature of Southeast Asia, with all sorts of commerce and transport in and out of the region, the virus would likely spread around the world--including to the United States, in a matter of hours or days.

I would ask my good friend, the senior Senator from Vermont, who has a long history of leadership on international health issues. for his assessment of what needs to be done.


Mr. LEAHY. I would say to the Senator from Illinois that, earlier this year, the World Health Organization convened a conference on this issue. The WHO

concluded that the international community does not possess sufficient plans and resources to effectively respond to an outbreak of the avian flu and that additional resources and attention to this issue are urgently needed. The WHO called for $100 million in new resources from the international community to prevent, and if necessary, respond to an outbreak of the avian flu.

Mr. OBAMA. Just for the record, the $100 million figure is important for our purposes here today. Before the Appropriations Committee put together the supplemental, we discussed the importance of immediately addressing the avian flu before the situation spirals out of control, and that $25 million is an appropriate amount to deal with this critical emergency. I am correct?

Mr. LEAHY. Yes, the Senator is correct. When the Appropriations Committee was putting together the Supplemental, the Majority and Minority, working together, included $25 million to prevent and respond to an outbreak of the avian flu, because of the urgent nature of the situation in southeast Asia.

I would also add that $25 million is one-fourth of the WHO appeal, and as we know, the traditional U.S. share of such multilateral efforts is one-fourth of the total cost. I would also point out that this is the amount that has been authorized in S. 600, the Foreign Assistance Authorization bill that was debated in the Senate last week.

Mr. OBAMA. I also know that USAID has already formulated a rapid response plan to use this $25 million, if it is ultimately appropriated.

Mr. LEAHY. That is correct. The administration urgently needs this money and it will be well spent if appropriated. In fact, the money will be used to address the avian flu and build lasting mechanisms and networks to address other viruses that will undoubtedly arise in southeast Asia. The $25 million to combat the avian flu is important for Southeast Asia and the United States.


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