WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is taking its concerns about a potential flu pandemic on the road over the next few months to try to motivate cities and towns to start planning.
Minnesota, Arkansas, and Arizona will be the first stops, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in an interview yesterday. In addition, the administration has asked governors to send representatives to the capital on Monday to talk about flu.
''The public health people get this and have been advocating preparation for some time," Leavitt said. ''What's now necessary is for the political leadership at the county, city, school, and business level to understand it so they can prepare in the ways unique to them."
Early last month, the administration released its strategy for combating a super-flu outbreak. Health officials say there is increased risk of such an outbreak should bird flu mutate into a form that is easily transmittable from person to person. The odds of such a mutation are low, officials say, but cannot be dismissed.
The 1918 pandemic, caused by a bird flu that jumped to humans, killed at least 40 million people.
Bush asked Congress to spend $7.1 billion for steps such as a larger stockpile of medicine and greater surveillance of poultry markets and migratory bird flyways.
But the federal government can only do so much, Leavitt said, adding that local communities will be at the forefront of any effort to prevent or diminish a pandemic.