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Bush's Bird Flu Plan Includes Vaccines, Data Sharing, And Pandemicflu.gov

President Bush's plan includes a biosurveillance information system and a public Web site
In a speech at the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday, President George Bush provided an outline of what the U.S. needs to do to prepare and respond to a possible bird flu pandemic, including a system for gathering and sharing data needed to spot a disease outbreak.

In addition to stockpiling vaccines and anti-viral drugs, Bush's plan calls for a "National Biosurveillance Initiative" that would "help us rapidly detect, quantify, and respond to outbreaks of disease in humans and animals, and deliver information quickly to state and local and national and international public health officials," said Bush, according to a transcript of his speech.

It's not clear if Bush's biosurveillance initiative goes beyond a system on which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already is working. CDC is working to expand a system called BioSense, which was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to help detect possible bio-terrorism attacks, as well as naturally occurring disease outbreaks.

Today, the BioSense system only collects emergency room and other real-time data from U.S. Veterans hospitals, military facilities, and private labs contracted by the U.S. However, the system is being expanded to collect and analyze ER and other real-time data from civilian hospitals across the nation. The goal by the end of next year is to have as many hospitals sending data to BioSense as possible from so-called '"bio-watch" or hot-spot regions of the country, those most likely to be the site of an outbreak or the scene of a bioterrorist attack. CDC officials weren't immediately available for comment.

In addition to the National Biosurveillance Initiative, Bush announced the launch of a new Web site, pandemicflu.gov, to provide the American public with more information about pandemics. Said Bush, "That ought to be easy for people to remember."

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