Senate Health Committee Members Praise HHS Response to Avian Flu Threat

Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today commended the administration's response to the avian flu threat in using new flexibility granted by the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization, which was signed into law on March 13.

Under the new law, the Health and Human Services Secretary determined that there is significant potential for a public health emergency that has significant potential to affect national security or the health and security of United States citizens living abroad and that involves the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus, and was able to authorize the emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection of H7N9, or avian influenza A.

Burr said: "The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act provides targeted flexibility to ensure that we are better prepared to respond to the full range of public health threats that may confront us. I applaud the Administration for using the new flexibility and critical tools provided under this law to better understand and respond to the emerging H7N9 avian influenza."

Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said: "The HELP Committee worked on a bipartisan basis to enact legislation to better protect Americans from public health emergencies of all kinds. That effort is now paying dividends as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses its newly-granted authority to detect and diagnose avian flu."

Enzi said: "America is better equipped to respond thanks to the coordinated efforts between federal, state and local entities. PAHPA has helped guarantee that America has the tools needed to address a biological disaster and I commend the Administration for their quick response."

Casey said: "The Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act addresses the gaps in our preparedness efforts, and puts in place new critical measures to protect Pennsylvanians and all Americans. The Administration's response to the recent avian flu threat underscores the importance of these new strategies in addressing emerging threats."

Alexander, Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said: "The goal of this law was to help our nation be better prepared for the threat of a bioterror attack or a flu outbreak, and the avian flu response shows that Americans are safer today because of the law."

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization strengthens our nation's preparedness for and ability to respond to medical and public health emergencies, optimizes state and local all-hazards preparedness and response efforts and collaboration, enhances medical countermeasure activities, and reauthorizes key medical and public health programs, including the BioShield Special Reserve Fund. Additional information regarding the legislation can be found here.

Senators Mikulski (D-MD), Isakson (R-GA), Roberts (R-KS), and Chambliss (R-GA) are original cosponsors of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013.