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World said not ready for global flu crisis

Oct. 7, 2005 at 7:14 AM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The top U.S. health official, referring to the possibility of an avian flu crisis, says the world is "woefully unprepared" to respond to a pandemic.

"You'd think that it would be a matter of constant concern to us," Mike Leavitt, the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, told CNN. "It has not been, anywhere in the world and, consequently, the world is unprepared. And we're now as a civilization rallying to say, 'What can we do to better prepare?'"

Leavitt made his comments as health experts from around the world gathered in Washington to discuss the possibility of a flu pandemic.

Leavitt, the host for the event along with U.S. Global Affairs Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky, said officials were trying to devise a comprehensive surveillance plan so that the virus could be monitored closely, allowing for a quick response if it was seen to be spreading.

"Containment is our first strategy," he said.

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