Government Watching North American Influenza Situation

Congressional committees are looking into flu.

Monday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reiterated what many others are saying: There is no evidence at this time that U.S. swine have been infected with this virus. He also spoke to producers about their responsibility.

"I am reminding the pork industry as well as owners of pigs about being consistent and thorough in their practices to prevent the introduction or spread of disease," Vilsack said. "USDA has reached out to agriculture officials in every state to affirm that they have no signs of this virus type in their state's swine herd."

Congress is also taking action. The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is holding an emergency hearing on the influenza outbreak on Thursday. Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone, D- N.J., says the hearing will address the public’s concern over the potential outbreak of the influenza to the broader U.S. population and ensure that all the agencies responsible for protecting the public’s health are coordinating appropriately with all due diligence to avert a potential disaster.

The Centers for Disease Control are tracking cases of the virus and so far there have been no deaths in the United States. The bulk of cases and deaths have occurred in Mexico.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled its own hearing on the matter for this Wednesday. Also Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is calling for additional funding for pandemic preparedness as the number of cases of the North American Influenza continue to grow. Harkin chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds pandemic preparedness.

"Pandemic influenza is one of the biggest public health threats facing our country today," Harkin said. "Pandemics start as a few isolated incidents, but can spread faster than a wildfire. The spending bill currently traveling through Congress should again ensure the CDC has the resources it needs and I intend to make that my mission as well as work with the Department of Health and Human Services to see if additional resources are needed to address the recent outbreak."

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