WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today submitted the following statement for the record at a committee hearing on preparations for the 2009 Pandemic Flu with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.


  Rep. Markey speaks at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on preparations for the 2009 Pandemic Flu.

 “This year, American children across the country are returning to school after summer break with more to worry about than just their homework. The H1N1 influenza virus, which swept across the country and the world with alarming speed earlier this year, poses a threat to the health and well being of all Americans, from students to seniors.

"In my home state of Massachusetts, the H1N1 virus has infected 1,400 individuals, more than half of which were children under 18 years of age. Sadly, this virus has also caused 11 deaths in my state and nearly 600 deaths nationwide.


In 2005, when a new strain of avian flu was found to be spreading across various parts of the world, our nation was severely unprepared. Federal agencies were caught off guard, as they were still developing preparedness plans and struggled to coordinate their efforts, all while hampered by inadequate funding levels.


In the 109th Congress, I introduced the Global Trade Requires Unmitigated Truth in Health, or TRUTH, Act, to ensure that we address the global aspect of health risks in this era of unprecedented international commerce and travel. As our world becomes more and more interconnected, we also see an increase in harmful and dangerous diseases flying across our borders.


We all know that pigs can’t fly, but swine flu can.  It can fly across borders, infecting individuals all around the globe.


We were spared a major outbreak of the avian flu in 2005, but now, the H1N1 outbreak has already reached a pandemic classification by the World Health Organization. This time, however, we are much better prepared to combat the H1N1 virus than we were when faced with the avian flu.


A new vaccine is being developed and will be ready in the coming weeks. The Department of Health and Human Services has carefully coordinated efforts with education institutions, state and local authorities, travel industries, the business community, and health care providers. Five companies will be producing a large supply of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine and more than 670 Massachusetts providers have already registered to help administer it when it is ready.


To further reassure concerned mothers and fathers, the Massachusetts Department of Health is recommending an “MVP” approach to combat the H1N1 virus.


MITIGATE your risk by staying home when you are sick and keeping your kids home if they are ill.


VACCINATE yourself and your family once the H1N1 vaccine is available, especially if you are at high-risk.


And PREVENT the spread of flu by washing your hands frequently covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Every one of us has the responsibility to be the MVP in our household, in our office, in our neighborhood.


I applaud President Obama, Secretary Sebelius, and thousands of health care workers and researchers for taking the necessary action to prepare our country against the H1N1 threat.”