Follow Tommy: Get proactive on bird flu

Tom Hefty, who once ran Blue Cross in Wisconsin and continues to care as much about overall public health as anyone in the state, follows the news on bird flu across the country closely. Here is his latest update to those who will listen:

“More bird flu news—this time from Wisconsin.

Tom Hefty

“It is a deadly disease for birds, other animals and with a 50% mortality rate for humans——but with only a small number of humans with the disease so far.

“The potential deaths from the bird flu virus was why the U,S, government placed bird flu virus research on the “classified list” 20 years ago. Note that it is a potential bio-terrorism weapon.

“COVID was a respiratory virus.  The bird flu virus is a nervous system threat.

“The spread of the virus won’t stop until the Biden Administration releases the bird flu vaccine for production.   Both Pfizer and Moderna have announced that they have the capability to produce a vaccine, but the Biden Administration is dragging its feet. And there is conflict among the federal agencies CDC, FDA, and USDA.

“Finland has begun vaccinating humans.  The U.S. Government approved the bird flu vaccine for the California condor—an endangered species—but not for Midwest poultry producers or for dairy farms.  

“And there are no actions yet for testing immigrant farm workers and cheese makers who are exposed to unpasteurized milk.”

Hefty fervently believes that it imperative that both state and federal governments move to a proactive stance on this emerging threat.

With the dairy industry as a bedrock of the Wisconsin economy, there is every reason for Gov. Evers and legislators to get out in front of spread of the Avian Flu in our state. Further, the University of Wisconsin – Madison is home to one of the few Avian Flu labs, so we have a leg up on ramping up testing protocols, starting with dairy herds and workers.

We have learned a lot from the COVID epidemic that needs to be smartly applied to the nascent spread of the bird flu virus. Let’s look at differing governmental approaches in the bad old days of COVID in 2020 and 2021.

President Trump accelerated the production of the COVID vaccines, but then dragged his feet on the rollout, even giving credibility to non-scientific methods. The consensus is that his obfuscation resulted in preventable deaths.

At the same time, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, an action-oriented executive, moved quickly as interim UW president to deploy UW nursing students to offer free COVID testing on campuses across the state.

Tommy’s leadership instincts were seldom wrong, He got elected governor four times. He ran for president as a proactive policy maker. He didn’t make it to the Oval Office. Too bad. But let’s follow his lead and get out in front of the Bird flu threat.

It should be a bipartisan no-brainer.

 

 

 

 

 

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