Bush Proposes Using Military in Bird Flu Pandemic

via MedScape Daily News: Bush Proposes Using Military in Bird Flu Pandemic

Bush Proposes Using Military in Bird Flu Pandemic

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Oct 04 – President George W. Bush suggested using the military to contain any epidemic of avian influenza on Tuesday, saying Congress needs to consider the possibility.

He said the military, perhaps the National Guard, might be needed to enforce quarantines if the feared H5N1 bird flu virus changes enough to cause widespread human infection.

“If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine?” Bush asked at a news conference.

“It’s one thing to shut down airplanes. It’s another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu. And who best to be able to effect a quarantine?” Bush added.

“One option is the use of a military that’s able to plan and move. So that’s why I put it on the table. I think it’s an important debate for Congress to have.”

Someone please tell me we’ve already thought this one through. The threat of Bioterrorism has been a topic at every professional society meeting I’ve attended in the last decade. Smallpox, Ebola, Typhoid, and Plague are all person to person transmissible, very lethal pathogens. Three years ago the Government was concerned enough about smallpox bioterrorism a round of smallpox revaccinations was started, so there is at least some concern at high levels. I cannot believe that quarantine hasn’t been discussed and thought out, at high levels before.

One thing the President was quoted as saying highlights a big problem / misconception about quarantine, …” It’s another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu…”. The problem isn’t in keeping people from coming TO an infected area, it’s keeping people from LEAVING the danger, and by their travel spread the virus elsewhere.

That’s where the problem lies.


  1. Hmmm. Perhaps they’re looking at the difference between using military in response to a bioterrorism attack, where it would be presumed acceptable, and using military in a purely civilian context against the natural spread of a new virus — in which case I think it would be questionable, and ought to be debated before it happens.

  2. Matt, that’s a good thought, though I think with a transmissible epidemic it really doesn’t matter the source or intent of how it got here, quarantines will need to be the same in 99.99% of the cases.

  3. What is the difference between a bioterrorism attack and the natural spread of a virus?

    To definitively know it was an attack, “someone” (terrorist group) would have to claim responsibility. We have all seen the jihad(ists) blow themselves up and terrorists in Japan use chemicals in the subway, etc… What would stop “someone” from injecting themselves with; Smallpox, Ebola, Typhoid, or the Plague and then traveling here “under the radar”?

    How would we know if we are under a bioterrorism attack, if no one claimed responsibility? How long would it take to corroborate a claim? Time is perhaps the most important aspect here. No debate! As Far as I’m Concerned; the longer we wait the more damage is done.

    I think it’s entirely appropriate to use the military in every quarantine situation without knowing the source or intent. Furthermore, suppose there is an identifiable cluster present… I would pray, hope, and expect a quarantine of that area. The military could move in and help those afflicted to the best of their ability. Military quarantine is far more efficient than letting the civilian population muck about, while the CDC attempts to vaccinate the entire country.

  4. The key to a BT attack is an unusual bug, or a usual bug but in a much larger than normal number of victims.

    I’m not an epidemiologist, but a BT attack would / should be fairly evident (once we figure out what’s going on). Instead of one person getting sick, then their family, then their neighbors and contacts, you’ll have hundreds sick on day 3 and exponential, explosive growth after that.

    Then, people not waiting on busses will flee for their lives, and that’s where the secondary spread takes off. That’s where the hard part of a quarantine comes in: looking apparently healthy people in the eye and saying “okay, go into this huge building, and if none of you are sick in 3 days you’ll be allowed to leave the area, with your vaccination”.

    The press will not be our friend. Imagine the 24/7 video interviews with apparently healthy and completely panicked people not being allowed to leave an endemic zone.

  5. Until the Constitution is changed, and time the US military is used for policing (even for quaranties) inside the US, you’re violating the law. Granted, SCOTUS moves slowly, but don’t for a second think the ACLU wouldn’t be screaming that every infected person was being put under arrest without due process. Heaven forbid it prevents exposed people from exposing more, thus saving the US (and most likely the world) from another pandemic on the scale of the Spanish Lady.

    I agree with you, the news will use any forced quarantine to blame Bush. I’m sure they’ll throw in Kyoto, the Bill of Rights, and such to tar and feather him (or any president – read that as non-Democrat, that would use such an initive). The rational will accept the quarantine as a neccissary safety procaution for the good of the people in general. The unrational will claim it’s a great conspiricy to thwart those that don’t agree with the adminstration, and then claim fored medical experimentation if vaccines are forcibly administered.

    None of this is made up, and none of it is pretty. Yet, this is the way the MSM has started to function…and I can already see now that US troops, if ever used, will fire on those who have been exposed. I don’t even want to begin to describe the slime the press would dredge up for that…