US Homeland Security Declares Public Health Emergency: Cases of Swine Flu Growing

April 27, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The White House held an unusual Sunday afternoon news conference, declaring a national public health emergency as new cases of swine flu continue to appear in the U.S., first breaking out in Mexico and quickly crossing the border to the five states of California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Kansas. The CDC’s latest numbers confirmed a total of 20 cases so far in the U.S. and expect more to come.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the health emergency, standard operating procedure, similar to emergency preparedness in advance of a coming hurricane.

To prepare for the increases in swine flu cases, the government is releasing 25 percent of its stockpiles of the antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, both of which are said to help combat flu symptoms. The antivirals will be distributed for now, to the five states that have confirmed cases.

These steps are intended to ensure U.S. health officials take appropriate steps to minimize the impact of the outbreak. Napolitano said “…we really don’t know ultimately what the size of seriousness of this outbreak is going to be.”

Speaking at the news conference in addition to Napolitano, were Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anne Schuchat, MD, the CDC’s interim deputy director for science and public health program and press secretary Robert Gibbs.

officials noted at the news conference that despite dozens of deaths from swine flu in Mexico, so far the cases in the U.S. have been mild. However, Schuchat cautioned we should be prepared for some deaths occurring in the U.S. Dr. Richard Besser, also said he expects more serious cases to develop as the outbreak spreads.

Swine flu symptoms are not any different from standard flu cases. Symptoms are, “…high fever, cough sore throat, muscle aches, possibly vomiting and diarrhea in some numbers,” says Schuchat. People are advised to take common sense precautions, such as frequent hand washing and staying home if sick.

There are reports of the swine flu spreading in the U.S. from person to person. The two Kansas cases involved a husband returning home from Mexico, spreading the disease to his wife.

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