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Study: Flu Pandemic in US Would Kill Millions, Cripple Economy


A U.S. government study says a bird flu pandemic in the United States would kill as many as two million Americans and cause an economic recession. One key lawmaker is calling on the United States to prepare for a potential outbreak of the bird flu in an effort to ease the impact of such a pandemic.

In a speech in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee highlighted the findings of the Congressional Budget Office study, which was released Thursday.

The report says a severe pandemic could infect 90 million people in the United States and cause the deaths of more than two million people.

Mr. Frist noted the study says such a pandemic could take a toll on the U.S. workforce, and result in a five-percent reduction in the gross domestic product about the same decrease in a typical economic recession.

"This is the equivalent of a $675 billion hit to the United States economy," said Mr. Frist. "These numbers are huge."

Senator Frist, who is also a practicing physician, says the government should take steps now to try to ease the impact of a potential pandemic:

"By immediately outlining and implementing a specific policy prescription, we can minimize not only the direct economic effects of a pandemic, but perhaps even more significantly, greatly reduce the costly indirect effects," he added.

Toward that end, Senator Frist is offering his own plan to prepare the country for a possible bird flu outbreak.

He suggests the government establish a strong communication effort to educate the public, use surveillance to stem the spread of the flu and delay the onset of a pandemic, increase the supply of anti-viral medicines, stockpile vaccines, and train medical personnel to quickly mobilize if a pandemic occurs.

Senator Frist also noted that President Bush has asked Congress for $7 billion to combat bird flu.

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