The U.S. government has declared a public health emergency over the swine flu. In a White House press briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano emphasized that this is analogous to the emergencies declared for the recent floods in Minnesota and North Dakota and for the inauguration – it allows resources to be freed up to deal with the anticipated challenges. The U.S. has 50 million treatment courses of antivirals stockpiled, and will release 25% of those for use by the states, with priority given to states in which cases of this swine flu subtype have been confirmed.

So far, those states are New York, California, Texas, Kansas, and Ohio, and the total of confirmed cases now stands at 20; CDC Acting Director Richard Besser stated in the press briefing that only one individual has had to be hospitalized, and all of the confirmed cases have recovered.

According to the Associated Press, Mexico has now reported 86 deaths, with 22 of those confirmed as swine flu; the total official number sickened with suspected swine flu still stands at 1,384. Canada has now confirmed 6 cases, and New Zealand, Spain, France, Israel, and Brazil all have suspected cases.

So far, Mexico hasn’t suspended flights out of the country but is giving questionnaires to all departing passengers about flu symptoms. Airports worldwide are screening passengers arriving from Mexico for flu-like symptoms.

Here in the US, there’s no reason to panic, and it sounds like DHS and CDC are taking appropriate actions – surveillance and constant communication internally and with health officials from other countries and the WHO. What we all should be doing is following the usual flu season advice: frequent and thorough handwashing, covering your coughs and sneezes, and limiting your contact with others if you have symptoms.

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