The headline — U.S. border states preparing for pandemic flu threat — sounded weird, but this is about some good ideas. The weird part was expecting this was about hardening the borders to keep bird flu out. In fact, however, it is about something much more sensible: the clear understanding that this virus doesn’t care about political borders:
California and Arizona, two states bordering Mexico, are working together to address the emerging threat of an influenza pandemic.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano have co-sponsored a joint declaration at the on- going 24th annual Border Governors Conference to establish a border state council to coordinate regional response and preparedness. The council will focus on both preparedness and response.
The Governors also invited other border governors to send their experts on public health, wildlife and agriculture to a meeting in California in November to assess the council’s progress and plan next steps.
Napolitano said the border states “have accomplished a great deal by working collaboratively on a number of issues and pandemic flu is no exception” and “this will enable us to work more closely on our protocols already in place.”
The constant, international movement of people, goods and services has increased the nation’s vulnerability to a global pandemic. (Xinhua)
The states intend to work with Mexican counterparts to coordinate pandemic flu plans. Mexico has excellent public health scientists, so this is a logical and useful step. In addition, there are a number of specific points to the coordinated response:
- Surveillance and detection: Develop a comprehensive surveillance and detection program, with special emphasis on monitoring death and disease among birds in critical wetland locations, and develop procedures to watch, detect and respond to avian flu in domestic bird populations;
- Biosecurity: Strengthen border biosecurity to minimize the illegal transport of wild and domestic birds and products contaminated with avian flu.
- Public health: Enact methods to monitor, detect and respond should people become ill with avian flu. This effort will include assessing education and training needs region-wide, producing influenza planning materials for use by national, state and local governments on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, creating joint contingency plans and testing emergency responses;
- Information sharing: Share information on surveillance and detection;
- Planning: Include border states in binational preparedness planning and require that states produce and enact work plans annually that outline cross-border preparation and response;
- Funding: Provide dedicated funding to the border region for public health emergencies and fund coordinated wild and domestic bird surveillance, response and information sharing through the U. S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Homeland Security;
- Flexibility: Give border states the flexibility to use federal funding most appropriately.
Rational, forward looking, commendable. Now they need some help from the federal governments in the US and Mexico. A day’s worth of Iraq War expenditure ought to do the trick.