Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Leavitt pledges U.S. support of global pandemic flu preparedness

Global efforts to prepare for and respond to a potential human influenza pandemic have "gained momentum and strength," during the past year, according to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

Addressing representatives of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City Sept. 20, Leavitt detailed progress made on the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which was announced by President Bush in 2005. The partnership focuses on enhancing preparedness, prevention, response and containment activities for pandemic influenza.

"Responding to a pandemic will demand the cooperation of the world community," Leavitt said. "No nation can go it alone. If a country is to protect its own people, it must work together with other nations to protect the people of the world."

The United States is playing a role in fighting pandemic flu by funding research on cell-based vaccines, developing mitigation strategies and creating rapid diagnostic testing, among other efforts, according to Leavitt. He pledged that the United States will continue to support the international partnership, highlighting the country's role in funding a specimen transport fund, which helps flu samples from affected countries travel quickly and securely. The United States has also helped reinforce antiviral stocks internationally by sending supplies of Tamiflu, an antiviral flu drug, to "a secure location in Asia," Leavitt said.

"It is our collective global resources and cooperation that will make our pandemic preparedness efforts a success and that will position us as a global community to (be) better prepared tomorrow than we are today," Leavitt said.

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