Oct 4, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The United States may need to quarantine regions of the country if localized outbreaks of a pandemic flu occur, US President George Bush said today during a press conference in Washington, DC.
Bush suggested expanding presidential power over state-run National Guard operations to implement such quarantines in the event of a pandemic.
"I think it's an important debate for Congress to have. I noticed the other day, evidently, some governors didn't like it. I understand that. I was the commander-in-chief of the National Guard, and proudly so, and, frankly, I didn't want the President telling me how to be the commander-in-chief of the Texas Guard," Bush said today in a press conference that focused largely on his newest Supreme Court nominee. "But Congress needs to take a look at circumstances that may need to vest the capacity of the President to move beyond that debate. And one such catastrophe, or one such challenge, could be an avian flu outbreak."
"Obviously, the best way to deal with a pandemic is to isolate it and keep it isolated in the region in which it begins," Bush added later. The president should have all assets on the table in order to deal with something as significant as pandemic flu, he said.
Bush has emphasized avian flu issues of late. He alluded to a number of formal and informal discussions at a global level during recent United Nations meetings. He also mentioned efforts to improve the manufacturing capacity for medical interventions such as antivirals.
As long ago as April, Bush signed an executive order authorizing the addition of pandemic influenza to a federal list of diseases that can lead to quarantine (see link below). The US government now has authority to detain or isolate a person arriving in the US in order to stop an infection.
Transcript of today's press conference: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/10/20051004-1.html
April 2005 Executive Order