California and Arizona, two states bordering Mexico, are working together to address the emerging threat of an influenza pandemic.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano have co-sponsored a joint declaration at the on- going 24th annual Border Governors Conference to establish a border state council to coordinate regional response and preparedness. The council will focus on both preparedness and response.
The Governors also invited other border governors to send their experts on public health, wildlife and agriculture to a meeting in California in November to assess the council's progress and plan next steps.
"California has been a national leader in disaster preparedness, " Schwarzenegger said. "We will continue that leadership role as we join other border states to prepare for the emerging threat of pandemic flu."
"We can't predict if pandemic flu will hit California, but we can take every action to prepare for its arrival and plan for how all Californians will respond to a pandemic."
California's 2006-07 budget provides 214 million dollars to implement a broad strategy to ensure that California is ready for public health emergencies and properly equipped to handle them.
Napolitano said the border states "have accomplished a great deal by working collaboratively on a number of issues and pandemic flu is no exception" and "this will enable us to work more closely on our protocols already in place."
The constant, international movement of people, goods and services has increased the nation's vulnerability to a global pandemic.
Health experts are highly concerned about the potential for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza to mutate and become transmittable from person to person.
"A pandemic knows no borders and could devastate thousands of lives and bring our entire economy to a halt," said Schwarzenegger. "We must continue working together to achieve a state of readiness and be able to quickly respond should a pandemic hit."
The border states will take the following actions:
-- Surveillance and detection: Develop a comprehensive surveillance and detection program, with special emphasis on monitoring death and disease among birds in critical wetland locations, and develop procedures to watch, detect and respond to avian flu in domestic bird populations;
-- Biosecurity: Strengthen border biosecurity to minimize the illegal transport of wild and domestic birds and products contaminated with avian flu.
-- Public health: Enact methods to monitor, detect and respond should people become ill with avian flu. This effort will include assessing education and training needs region-wide, producing influenza planning materials for use by national, state and local governments on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, creating joint contingency plans and testing emergency responses;
-- Information sharing: Share information on surveillance and detection;
-- Planning: Include border states in binational preparedness planning and require that states produce and enact work plans annually that outline cross-border preparation and response;
-- Funding: Provide dedicated funding to the border region for public health emergencies and fund coordinated wild and domestic bird surveillance, response and information sharing through the U. S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Homeland Security;
-- Flexibility: Give border states the flexibility to use federal funding most appropriately.
To achieve this, the border states called on the U.S. and Mexican federal governments to provide funding and support.
They also called upon the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Interior, and Mexico Ministry of Health to support this regional response.