Politics and Pandemics
The Center for Disease Control today downplayed the threat of a pandemic arising from a deadly new flu strain that has killed dozens of people in Mexico over recent weeks. To date only twenty cases of this hybrid version of the swine flu (H1N1) have been diagnosed in the United States and none of the infected individuals have died. The issue of flu prevention was a contentious one in Maine as recently as February when Senator Susan Collins helped persuade Congress to cut $780 million for flu preparedness from the Obama Administration's fiscal stimulus package. The Senator's Web site still highlights the influential role she played in removing that provision from the bill. Will concerns about a pandemic cause political problems for Collins — and Democrats like Chuck Schumer of New York — who fought to strip flu-prevention funding from the legislation? At the very least the emergence of H1N1 seems likely to lead to backpedaling by politicos over the next week.