American political memories can be so short.
Remember that time way back in 2005, during the avian flu A(H5N1) crisis, when a junior senator named Barack Obama wrote an op-ed in the New York Times warning that America urgently needed to prepare for a pandemic, and that we could model our readiness on the lessons learned from the 1918 flu?
As Dan Diamond pointed out online today, way back in 2005, before Obama ran for president, "there was growing political consensus to fund those planning efforts."
"A junior senator named BARACK OBAMA even argued in the New York Times that it was time for 'decisive action to prevent a pandemic.'"
Here's an excerpt from that op-ed, "Grounding a Pandemic," by Barack Obama and Richard Lugar, June 6, 2005:
International health experts believe that Southeast Asia will be an epicenter of influenza for decades. We recommend that this administration work with Congress, public health officials, the pharmaceutical industry, foreign governments and international organizations to create a permanent framework for curtailing the spread of future infectious diseases.
Among the parts of that framework could be these:
Increasing international disease surveillance, response capacity and public education and coordination, especially in Southeast Asia.
Stockpiling enough antiviral doses to cover high-risk populations and essential workers.
Ensuring that, here at home, Health and Human Services and state governments put in place plans that address issues of surveillance, medical care, drug and vaccine distribution, communication, protection of the work force and maintenance of core public functions in case of a pandemic.
Accelerating research into avian flu vaccines and antiviral drugs.
Establishing incentives to encourage nations to report flu outbreaks quickly and fully.
So far, A(H5N1) has not been found in the United States. But in an age when you can board planes in Bangkok or Hong Kong and arrive in Chicago, Indianapolis or New York in hours, we must face the reality that these exotic killer diseases are not isolated health problems half a world away, but direct and immediate threats to security and prosperity here at home.