President Urges Flu Preparedness and Clean Hands
By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama called on Americans Tuesday to take common-sense steps -- from staying home from work when they are sick to frequently washing their hands and covering their sneezes with their sleeves and not their hands -- to support government efforts to contain the expected impact of the swine flu.
Speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden, Obama said the federal government is taking a coordinated approach to fighting the expected outbreak, including ramping up what he says will be a "voluntary, but strongly recommended" H1N1 flu shot program.
The president has received regular briefings, including one from several Cabinet members and other top officials Tuesday, on the expected outbreak. He has asked officials to "spare no effort in addressing this national security challenge," according to a White House statement.
The federal government is also laying plans to coordinate its flu response with local officials, medical personnel, schools and others, the White House said.
The H1N1 virus brushed the United States this spring and health officials expect a stronger, more direct hit this coming fall and winter. Half of Americans could be infected with the virus and as many as 90,000 could die, more than double who die of seasonal flu, according to a planning scenario issued late last month by the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
The medical community could be overwhelmed by the outbreak, which could lead to as many as 1.8 million patients being hospitalized in the U.S., according to the planning scenario.
Obama said steady progress is being made on developing a swine flu vaccine and that a huge inoculation program "will begin soon."
"I don't want anybody to be alarmed," Obama said about the scenarios sketched about the possible impact of the flu. "But I do want everybody to prepared."
Posted at 3:53 PM ET on Sep 1, 2009
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