I found the following at the CongressDaily (http://nationaljournal.com/about/congressdaily/) web site. Excerpting briefly from their story: “President Bush’s request for more than $7 billion in emergency funding to prepare for a possible outbreak of avian flu “had better pass” before Congress adjourns for the year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist [who is also a medical doctor] , R-Tenn., declared Sunday. “We need to be prepared,” Frist said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” adding, “I’m very hopeful that we will invest $7.1 billion to look at prevention, to look at care, to look at treatment.” The measure might be attached to the fiscal 2006 Defense appropriations bill, although some House conservatives are insisting that the $7 billion be offset.
Fears of a pandemic have increased as a virus infecting millions of birds has spread throughout Asia and parts of Europe. The so-called bird flu has not yet appeared in the United States or spread from person to person abroad, but officials worry that it could mutate and become highly contagious because humans have no immunity to it. Frist said the spending request is only a fraction of an estimated $675 billion hit that the U.S. economy could take, with possibly two million dying from bird flu and up to 90 million sickened. “I don’t think it’s going to happen right now or tomorrow,” Frist said. “But if it does happen, it’s devastating.”