Panel criticizes feds’ readiness

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 28, 2009

WASHINGTON – The federal government’s preparedness for the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic that has claimed more than 1,000 lives nationwide was inadequate and incomplete, a congressional subcommittee said Tuesday.

Democratic and Republican members of the subcommittee stopped short of blaming President Barack Obama’s administration, but they made it clear that they expect improved handling of the pandemic in the near future. The House of Representatives panel was the Homeland Security subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity & Science and Technology.

“Our early warning and detection systems were inadequate,” said Rep. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., the subcommittee’s chairwoman. “Some key planning activities were incomplete; we didn’t have a good approach to provide health care under pandemic conditions; and levels of preparedness for pandemic influenza were unclear.”

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency testified that federal agencies are aggressively monitoring and responding to an illness that’s being heavily reported in 46 states.

However, the agency representatives acknowledged the federal government had to adjust its response because it had been preparing since 2005 to combat avian, or bird, flu, not the newer H1N1 strain.

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