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Bush Outlines Strategy to Combat Bird Flu

President Bush has asked Congress for $7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare the United States for a possible bird flu pandemic.

Speaking at the National Institutes of Health outside Washington Tuesday, Mr. Bush said there are no signs of an imminent pandemic in the United States or abroad.

But he warned that the avian flu virus has developed some of the characteristics needed to cause a pandemic that could kill thousands of people.

The president outlined a strategy that calls for the government to stockpile anti-flu vaccines and drugs, detect any outbreaks early, and educate the American people on ways to prevent bird flu from spreading.

He said 88 countries have already joined an international effort to detect outbreaks worldwide.

The president also said the United States needs to update its medical technology so it can quickly produce anti-flu vaccines for every American. He asked Congress to give vaccine makers greater protection from lawsuits, which he said have driven many manufacturers out of business.

The administration has already ordered $162 million worth of vaccine to protect against Asian bird flu, which has killed more than 60 people in Asia since late 2003.