President Barack Obama's budget carves out $879 billion for health and human services spending, a 7.7% increase that includes more money for items such as cancer research and food-safety inspectors.
The budget includes about $600 billion over a decade that would help pay for the president's ambitious health-care overhaul, in line with estimates released earlier this year. That's expected to account for roughly half of the total cost of the expansion.
- From the Daily Kos diaries:
It looks like imprisoned Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi will have her day in court next week. When will other imprisoned Iranian human rights advocates get theirs? Drs Kamiar and Arash Alaei developed innovative HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs that have saved thousands of lives in Iran. They collaborated with the international scientific community to share their knowledge and expertise with other countries. Instead of being rewarded for their diplomacy, they have been convicted of fomenting revolution.
- Kathleen Sebelius on public options:
The Obama administration's senior healthcare official Wednesday flatly rejected the idea of taking over the nation's medical insurance system, saying the federal government did not want to assume management of healthcare coverage.
Kathleen Sebelius, in her first appearance before Congress since being confirmed as the secretary of Health and Human Services, said the administration wanted a "public plan option" to encourage competition. It does not want to create a monopoly.
- David M. Drucker:
As the framework for health care reform legislation takes shape in the Senate, the issue of whether to include a government-run insurance option has emerged as the main area of disagreement between Democratic and Republican negotiators.
Complacency, not overreaction, is the greatest danger posed by the flu pandemic. That's a message scientists would do well to help get across.
- NY Times:
Dr. Anne Moscona, a flu specialist at Weill Cornell Medical College, said she had been called by a reporter for a women’s magazine “asking if mothers should hold swine flu parties, like chicken pox parties.”
“I think it’s totally nuts,” Dr. Moscona said. “I can’t believe people are really thinking of doing it. I understand the thinking, but I just fear we don’t know enough about how this virus would react in every individual. This is like the Middle Ages, when people deliberately infected themselves with smallpox. It’s vigilante vaccination — you know, taking immunity into your own hands.”
Flu is a nasty bug that can harm even otherwise healthy people. This doesn't sound like a good idea to me.
- By the way, there's data from Pew on how the public looks at pandemic flu coverage:
Up to 2 billion people could be infected by swine flu if the current outbreak turns into a pandemic lasting two years, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
WHO flu chief Keiji Fukuda said the historical record of flu pandemics indicates one-third of the world's population gets infected in such outbreaks. Independent experts agreed that the estimate was possible but pointed out that many would not show any symptoms.
That's "if", but it does explain some of the caution, and puts "mild" flu into some perspective. As the article notes, not everyone would be ill. But with that many people affected, some would be bound to have severe illness. In any case, it's a pandmeic potential virus, and the story is just beginning.
Early data on the H1N1 (swine) flu suggest it has the "potential for efficient, rapid spread among countries," the CDC said.
And when a lot of people are sick, some will get very sick, including previously healthy people (hospital stats focus on sicker patients, and early data may be skewed).
Sufficient information on 22 hospitalized patients showed that 12, or about half, had underlying medical conditions that might have increased risk, but half did not, that is, they were previously healthy individuals, many of them young. There were 11 cases of pneumonia among the hospitalized. 8 wound up in intensive care, 4 had respiratory failure and 2 died.
More perspective from senior virologist Robert Webster:
Webster said underestimating the swine flu virus would be a huge mistake. "This H1N1 hasn't been overblown. It's a puppy, it's an infant, and it's growing," he said. "This virus has got the whole human population in the world to breed in -- it's just happened. What we have to do is to watch it, and it may become a wimp and disappear, or it may become nasty."
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