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Bush Outlines Strategy to Combat Bird Flu

President Bush is asking the U.S. Congress to spend more than $7 billion to help prepare for a possible bird flu pandemic.

President Bush says there is no time to waste in preparing for a possible global outbreak of Avian flu.

"It is vital that our nation discuss and address the threat of pandemic flu now," he said. "There is no pandemic flu in our country or in the world at this time. But if we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare, and one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today."

Outlining a national strategy to confront a possible pandemic, President Bush asked Congress for more than $7 billion to better detect outbreaks and expand domestic vaccine production.

Of that request, nearly $3 billion would go toward accelerating development of new vaccine technologies that officials say should allow manufacturers to produce enough vaccine for every American within six month's of a pandemic's start.

While there is no evidence that Avian flu has yet spread from human to human, President Bush says public health officials are concerned because the flu has demonstrated the ability to infect humans with a fatal illness.

"If the virus were to develop the capacity for sustained human-to-human transmission, it could spread quickly across the globe," he said. "Our country has been given fair warning of this danger to our homeland and time to prepare."

President Bush says part of that preparation is detecting outbreaks before they spread. With 88 nations already cooperating in a flu surveillance network, Mr. Bush wants more than $250 million to help foreign governments train personnel to expand detection and testing.

"A flu pandemic would have global consequences, so no nation can afford to ignore this threat and every nation has responsibilities to detect and stop its spread," the president said.

One of the challenges of a flu pandemic is that scientists need a sample of the strain before they can produce a vaccine against it. So President Bush says the government is stockpiling antiviral drugs for the early months of an outbreak when there may be no vaccine.

He is also calling on Americans to learn more about what they can do to protect themselves by looking at the information on a new website:

"In a pandemic, an infection carried by one person can be transmitted to many other people, and so every American must take responsibility for stopping the spread of the virus," Mr. Bush explained.

President Bush says government spending to contain a possible flu pandemic will help scientists develop cures to other diseases as well as strengthening federal, state, and local preparedness for a terrorist attack using chemical or biological weapons.