This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," September 2, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Some of these estimates we're getting out of statewide officials who claim that the casualty count could be upwards of 10,000. The president has already been to Biloxi, Mississippi. He has been to Alabama. He is going to complete this tour with a look at probably the most battered area. And that is New Orleans.
And after he is done with that, he is due to address reporters. In the meantime, with us from Washington is a guy who is also at the front line of all of this, Michael Leavitt, the Health and Human Services secretary, joining us again out of Washington, as we continue to look at the president in New Orleans.
Secretary, thank you for joining us.
MIKE LEAVITT, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thank you, Neil.
CAVUTO: Secretary, you have heard about that potential count, 10,000 lives lost, maybe more. Have you any reason at all to dispute that?
LEAVITT: I have no base of information to either respond to it one way or another.
What I do know is that there are thousands of people who are going to need life-saving medical care. And we're working around the clock to get the equivalent — to build the equivalent of a 40-hospital chain of hospitals in a week to be able to deal with that and to deal with the medical — the mental health needs, the disease control and the long-term — positioning ourselves with to help with the long-term need of hundreds of thousands of people.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir. There's been a great deal of concern about diseases that could rampantly get out of control. How big a deal is that for you? And do you think that we are prepared to handle it?
LEAVITT: Well, it's one of our three primary focus areas. We have to prevent disease. This tragedy could become worse if we do not. We are concerned about diseases such as E Coli or hepatitis A, things that could be coming from water-borne diseases.
CAVUTO: You know, the issue as well of diseases or a foul condition that could exist way beyond the recovery effort, in other words, that New Orleans could actually be, in this case, a dangerous place to be, maybe for months to come.
LEAVITT: Well, disease is a very serious matter. And when you have got a combination of standing water, hot weather, mosquitoes, poor sanitation, people can get sick and literally thousands more could be negatively affected.
So, we are working very hard. We're dispatching 24 public health teams into the area, the equivalent of a couple of health departments coming from the outside to help local and state officials get a handle on this.
CAVUTO: When this was discussed among officials within the administration, Secretary, was there a view after the fact that this was much more serious than you thought?
LEAVITT: Well, this is a disaster that the scope of which unfolded over 24 hours. And I don't think there's any of us in news media, the president, the secretary of health and human services, the people in the country, just didn't know.
We were moving rapidly to respond to something that we knew was serious, but, obviously, the scope of it has unfolded to be horrific. And we are responding with every resource, not just in the federal government and state government and local government. But we are calling upon people all over the country. We have hospital chains that are responding, pharmaceutical companies, citizens, nurses, doctors, everyone.
And we're building rapidly an emergency medical shelter chain that I believe will be able to provide medical care. We're deploying public health officials into the area. There is a massive response.
CAVUTO: All right, sir, I want to thank you very much. I know that you have your hands full — Michael Leavitt, the HHS secretary, joining us out of Washington.
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