Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted that New York was a major gateway to the United States and one of the world's most densely populated cities, and therefore citizens should take the possibility of a bird flu pandemic "very seriously."
Bloomberg added that New York would have to rely on itself rather than Washington, and that any need to "vaccinate people or get information out or help people at hospitals or at home; those are things that cities do, those things aren’t done at the federal level.”
City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden approximated that a worst-case scenario for the city would be 2.5 million infected New Yorkers and 56,000 deaths city-wide. Medicine and equipment would likely be difficult to obtain, and it would take six to nine months for a vaccine against a newly identified virus to be developed.
The primary plan for the city is to emphasize the importance of early detection through communication with city doctors. According to Bloomberg, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has developed a system that can monitor information such as ambulance runs, emergency room visits and pharmacy sales, but officials say that basic flu-containment strategies would be employed first.
“It’s low technology, but it works: covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze; not going out if you have fever and cough,” Frieden said. “These are very important things people can do to reduce the spread of infection, and if there were a pandemic, they would be our first line of defense.”