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Preparing for Avian Flu and Other Emergency Situations

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Publication Date: March 2008

Publisher(s): IBM Center for The Business of Government

Special Collection: Presidential Advisory

Topic: Health (Diseases and disorders)
Social conditions (Safety and security)

Keywords: Presidential transition; Public health; Emergency preparedness

Type: Brief

Coverage: United States


Some will argue that the threat of bird flu is overstated. Yet, the threat is real. In 2002-2003, Exotic Newcastle Disease swept through California and other western states. Exotic Newcastle Disease is an avian disease that transfers in much the same way as bird flu. However, it does not transfer to humans. The fact that this outbreak was not common knowledge is a testament to the fact that public authorities can work together to identify and eliminate animal diseases. The experience offers authorities a chance to learn how to control the movement of an avian disease without a high risk to human lives.

The risk of bird flu requires the U.S. government to prepare a response. The government can follow the same failed path as Katrina, or it can learn lessons from the response to Exotic Newcastle Disease. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that good intentions are no substitute for a prepared response.