October 19, 2007 / 12:43 AM / in 10 years

Bush orders strategy to deal with catastrophes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Thursday directed the Health and Human Services Department to establish a task force to plan for potential catastrophes like a terrorist attack, pandemic influenza or a natural disaster where there would be a large number of casualties, the White House said on Thursday.

Bush, whose administration was sharply criticized for a slow government response to Hurricane Katrina, issued a directive to establish a National Strategy for Public Health and Medical Preparedness.

Within four months, the task force must submit a plan outlining how to improve government response to a catastrophic public health event to Fran Townsend, White House homeland security adviser.

“The United States continues to make significant progress in public health and medical preparedness,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. “Yet many threats we face, including pandemic influenza, earthquakes or a large-scale terrorist attack could overwhelm our public health and medical systems,” he said.

The directive orders 24 steps to be taken, including requiring the Health and Human Services Department to work with state and local governments and the private sector to develop plans for responding to a mass-casualty event.

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