Tommy Thompson, HHS Secretary

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This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, March 17, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

Watch Your World w/Cavuto weekdays at 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: With us now, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who joins us from the new high-tech command center. Mr. Secretary, good to have you.

TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: Hi, Neil. Happy St. Patrick's Day to you.

CAVUTO: To you as well, sir.

A lost about whether this will be a safe St. Patrick's Day with this pneumonia, whatever you want to call it, that seems to be spreading. How bad is this?

THOMPSON: This is very bad, Neil, because we really don't know what causes it. We don't know what treatments will be able to respond and be able to control this particular disease. We really don't know if it's bacteria or virus. It acts more like a virus, but we're really not sure, and the scientists have been running tests at CDC, as well as in China, and at the World Health Organization, and have been able to conclusively determine the source or what sort of treatments are needed and what causes it.

So we really are perplexed, but we continue to do it. We're working very closely with the World Health Organization. In fact, we have a conference with the World Health Organization and at least biweekly, and once again tomorrow morning.

CAVUTO: As you know, Secretary, people hear something like this, they immediately think bioterrorism. Could you put their fears to rest?

THOMPSON: Well, it's very doubtful that it is a bioterrorism attack, because it started in the Guangdong province. You probably can see the map of Asia and the Guangdong province behind me over my right shoulder, but basically that map -- and the Guangdong province is not a place where a bioterrorism act and would not be the place in which we would expect a bioterrorism attack to come from, so we doubt very much that it is.

We think very much that this is something that is disease-oriented and not something that is being used by humans to cause diseases by using this as a weapon. So I would say at this point in time...

CAVUTO: I'm sorry, sir, but it raises another...

THOMPSON: That is very doubtful.

CAVUTO: Right. Because it raises another question, that if we go to war in Iraq, that there is going to be some sort of terrorist tit-for-tat, maybe something like a bioterror attack or something akin to that. How prepared are we, just in case?

THOMPSON: Neil, that is absolutely a possibility. In fact, we are anticipating that if we do go to war with Iraq that there is the eventuality of a bioterrorism attack is entirely probable, and therefore, we are getting ready to respond.

This command center that you are filming right now has got all the capabilities in which we can respond very quickly. We can move 50 tons of medical supplies, antidotes, antibiotics and equipment to any city in America within seven hours. We have got the country divided up into 10 regions in which we have approximately 7,000 to 8,000 medical personnel, doctors and nurses and so on. We can deploy very quickly from this particular room, so we can respond very quickly. We cannot prevent it from happening, but we can respond very quickly.

CAVUTO: Secretary Thompson, thank you very much. Appreciate it, sir.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Neil.

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