US declares public health emergency over spread of swine flu

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Official image of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today at a news conference that the U.S. has declared a public health emergency in light of the swine flu outbreak. The total number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States stands at 20.

Secretary Napolitano said that the United States' declaration follows suit with the "standard operating procedure" of such an outbreak to make more government resources available to combat the disease. One direct result of the declaration is the government's mobilization of approximately 12 million doses of Tamiflu to locations where the states can quickly access their share of the medication if needed.

Secretary Napolitano urged residents not to panic saying that the government is issuing a "declaration of emergency preparedness." Secretary Napolitano added, "Really that's what we're doing right now. We're preparing in an environment where we really don't know ultimately what the size of seriousness of this outbreak is going to be."

John Brennan, a Homeland Security assistant, added that "at this point, a top priority is to ensure that communication is robust and that medical surveillance efforts are fully activated."

This afternoon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported that 8 students from the St. Francis Prepatory School in Queens, New York have contracted the swine flu. All in all, more than 100 students from that high school were absent last week with flu-like symptoms.

Meanwhile, public health officials in Ohio today announced one confirmed case of swine flu in the state. Thus far, California has reported 7 confirmed cases of swine flu, while Kansas and Texas have each reported two confirmed cases.

At the same news conference Dr. Richard Besser, the acting director from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said to expect additional cases of swine flu to be reported in the short term. Dr. Besser added that the U.S. could also start seeing cases of the disease where the effects are more dramatic: "We're going to see more severe disease in this country". So far, no one in the U.S. has died from swine flu.


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