A US Government Accountability Office official on Thursday at a House Energy and Commerce... Health Subcommittee hearing said that the United States remains unprepared for a potential avian flu pandemic, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to Marcia Crosse, health care director at GAO, an HHS draft pandemic plan completed in August 2004 does not include instructions on management of a limited supply of vaccine, whether to restrict travel, or impose quarantines or deployment of federal resources (Nesmith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/27). Crosse also said hospitals remain unprepared to address local epidemics. Health officials interviewed by GAO said that a pandemic could affect the capacity of hospitals if they have to close certain sections to serve as isolation wards, she added. "Moreover, a shortage in work force could increase during an influenza pandemic because higher disease rates could result in high rates of absenteeism among health care workers," Crosse said (CQ HealthBeat, 5/26). CDC Director Julie Gerberding acknowledged that the pandemic plan requires additional provisions, such as instructions on whether to isolate or quarantine infected individuals and those with whom they have had contact. Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office at HHS, said that the department will complete the pandemic plan this summer (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/27).
[...] the United States flu pandemic preparedness plan needs a lot of work. It is appropriately called a draft, because the "plan" is full of holes. It plans for distributions of vaccines that don't exist, anti-virals that are not available, hospital beds that are not available, doctors and nurses that are not available, and a death rate that is much more wishful thinking than anything remotely approaching reality.