$1.5 Billion Sought for Flu Response; First U.S. Death Reported
Little changed on Tuesday about the U.S. swine flu situation, with the confirmed cases raised from 40 to 64. But the first U.S. death attributed to swine flu was reported early today, when CDC Acting Director Dr. Richard Besser told CNN that a 23-month-old Texas child had died.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk briefed reporters Tuesday about the federal response and capability. Napolitano said about 12 million courses of antivirals are being distributed to states. "Right now, given the size of the stockpile we have -- the 50 million courses in the national stockpile, the states themselves have something like another 23 million courses; not doses, courses; and I believe the Department of Defense has another seven million courses. So right now, we have the supply to meet the demand," she said.
DHS, HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other partners are taking aggressive action to prevent further spread of the virus, she said, and an operations coordination task force is being formed to deal with the outbreak. The task force will consist of chiefs of staff of relevant departments and agencies and will focus on operations, coordination, and mitigation. President Obama has requested $1.5 billion to support the response, Napolitano said.
Antiviral courses were scheduled to reach Arizona, California, Indiana, New York, and Texas on Tuesday, she said. Kirk and Vilsack stated again that eating properly cooked pork will not spread the disease. Both thanked the Japanese government for stating that American pork exports are safe. "First of all, let me say from a USDA perspective that obviously our hearts go out to all those families who have been affected by the H1N1 virus, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are currently with those who are sick," Vilsack said. "Obviously, at USDA, we're also concerned about a lot of hard-working farm families around the United States. We are interested in making sure that they can continue to raise pork and also be able to sell it here in America around the world. So we are aggressively working with our state ag departments and state veterinarians to make sure that we can constantly be aware of any changes in current status. As of today, as Secretary Napolitano indicated, we have no indication that any swine from the United States has been infected. We are constantly getting updates, and if that were to change, we would obviously notify folks immediately. We have also taken the step of working through our foreign agricultural service as well as with Ambassador Kirk and the Trade Representative's office to send the message to all of our trading partners that we are open for business. We believe that there is no reason to stop or ban pork or pork products in the United States. As the secretary indicated, it is perfectly safe to consume pork or products from America. We're going to continue to trade. And we're going to continue to work with our trading partners to make sure that we answer any questions that they might have to make sure that the borders are open and trading lanes continue to be open."
A reporter asked whether officials are tracking how many people might be isolated for observation by health officials. "We are collecting data," Napolitano answered. "But, again, I think our best estimate right now is that we are at the beginning of what could be a long flu cycle. And we may see a period of interruption; that is to say, that because we're at the beginning of the summer, this particular outbreak may die off naturally and we may see a resurgence again in the fall. So we're in this for the long haul. That's why we've now set up, on a semi-permanent basis as we go through this H1N1 outbreak, an interagency structure to move us forward. That's why we've got state and local public health and also other authorities working now with us on a daily basis. Because this is going to be a marathon."