Swine flu as national emergency
US president Barack Obama declared a swine flu emergency in the country on Saturday, according to a statement released by the White House.
Obama signed a declaration late on Friday, authorising health secretary Kathleen Sebelius to bypass some federal rules, in order to let health officials respond more efficiently to the outbreak of the H1N1 virus.
The move is aimed at making it less difficult for people affected by the virus to seek treatment, and allow medical providers to give it immediately, bypassing potential hurdles such as health privacy regulations.
“As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic,” the president wrote in the declaration.
Swine flu has now been circulated in 46 of the 50 US states, and has resulted in at least 411 confirmed deaths since the end of August. Production of antiviral vaccines has been slower than initially predicted, and it is likely that the US government’s targets for delivery won’t be met by drug makers, according to Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.