Flu Carries Lessons for Bioterror Fight

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2009 1:11 PM CDT
A woman prays during a mass held outdoors at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The H1N1 flu outbreak spotlights a public-health infrastructure ill suited to respond to a pandemic or its close cousin, a bioterror attack, D.A. Henderson writes for Newsweek. We must “sharpen our health-care response. Rapid diagnosis and response are critical,” he writes. The “interconnected world we live in” means a little-known disease “could rapidly become the hemorrhagic epidemic of Boston or Bordeaux.”

Authorities expected an Asian flu epidemic. “Yet it appeared in Mexico while we weren't looking,” Henderson writes, and that is unacceptable. The current panic calls to mind the 2001 anthrax attacks. Just five people died, “but widespread fear of almost any powder led to the evacuation of hundreds of office complexes.” It's time to “strengthen emergency plans,” Henderson writes. “Other, even less pleasant surprises are in our future.”