Looking at lessons learned from H1N1 flu response

Thursday - 5/7/2009, 3:14pm EDT

Amy Morris

As heard on sister station WTOP

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By Amy Morris
Executive Editor
FederalNewsRadio

Now that fears over H1N1 (swine) flu are starting to subside, the federal government is looking at lessons learned and what can be done in the future.

Q: Did agencies overreact?

A: Experts say no.

We talked with Mike Leavitt, the former Health and Human Services Secretary who had nothing but praise for the way the current administration responded during the outbreak, and how they continue to respond.

He was a big part of putting together the framework for the plan during the Bush Administration, which was rolled out during the Obama Administration.

He said it was rewarding to see that good preparation pays off, and that the feds did an incredible job exercising the plans they put together.

Q: Are there weaknesses?

A: Yes and the federal government is still in the middle of its response, but they're also coming up with a "lessons learned" list.

First of all, there really is no way to prepare for everything.

Former Secretary Leavitt says that the more complex an emergency becomes, the more spontaneity is required, and that's where plans start to show weakness and break down.

There is no perfect response.

He says that anything you do in advance might seem alarmist, and anything you do after the fact is inadequate.

Q: There is talk of a second wave of this virus coming in the fall. Are agencies ready?

A: The way Leavitt explained it, in most pandemics, the second wave comes in the fall during the traditional flu season.

So agencies have to remain vigilant and use this time to work on a vaccine.

Leavitt also says that they need to make sure they have a way to distribute the vaccine.

He says the government was able to deliver stockpiled materials to different places, but they didn't have to worry about distributing vaccines to individuals.

So they have to work on a plan for that.

He says they must maintain that sense of urgency without creating a panic.


Read more about FederalNewsRadio's interview with former HHS Secretary Leavitt.

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