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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Statement by Mike Leavitt Secretary of Health and Human Services Regarding Human Cases of H5N1 in Europe

From the first appearance of H5N1 influenza in migrating birds in Asia, we have recognized -- and called attention to -- the possibility that they could carry the virus to other continents. While we are concerned about today’s report of human cases of H5N1 influenza in Eastern Turkey, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission -- which is the hallmark of a potential pandemic.

These cases underscore the need for efforts undertaken by this Administration to improve our pandemic influenza preparedness. We will continue our vigorous efforts in concert with the WHO Secretariat, its regional offices and other international partners to track the global spread of the H5N1 influenza virus and to detect human cases as early as possible. We also will continue the aggressive work within the United States to ensure early detection and reporting of influenza-like illness, help municipalities prepare to counter an influenza pandemic, increase stockpiles of antiviral drugs, develop vaccines against potential pandemic virus strains, and enhance domestic vaccine production capacity.

Neither the United States nor any other nation is as well prepared for an influenza pandemic as it should be. But, through our ongoing efforts, we are better prepared today than we were yesterday; and we will be better prepared tomorrow than we are today.

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Last revised: January 5, 2006