President Obama has declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, which will allow hospitals and local governments to quickly set up alternate locations and procedures if needed to handle the possible large number of patients. Read more on the swine flu national emergency below.
The national emergency declaration came as health officials are beginning the widespread vaccination program.
The swine flu is now widespread in 46 states. Millions of people in the United States have had swine flu, also called H1N1.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that the swine flu has killed more than 1,000 Americans and hospitalized over 20,000.
The emergency declaration only has to do with hospital treatment, not with the vaccine.
So far the surge of patients isn’t so large to call for a triage area or a treatment unit off-site. Some hospitals in Texas and Tennessee that had set up triage tents in their parking lots in order to screen patients with fever or other flu symptoms, but those were on the grounds of the hospital.
President Obama’s declaration is mainly a bureaucratic move that doesn’t mean the swine flu outbreak of the H1N1 flu is worse. And it has nothing to do with reports of vaccine shortages.
“This is not a response to any new developments,” said Reid Cherlin, a White House spokesman. “It’s an important tool in our kit going forward.”
Public and private health officials were administering swine flu shots at scores of locations around the country this weekend.
The seasonal flu normally hospitalizes around 200,000 people in the United States each year and kills 36,000. But over 90 percent of the deaths from seasonal flu are among the elderly, but the swine flu mostly affects children.
There is a serious shortage of swine flu vaccines; only about 16 million doses are available.
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