It has been reported by CNN news channel on Saturday that U.S. President Barack Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the increase in illness from the H1N1 influenza virus on Friday night. An official of the U.S. Centre for Disease Control says millions of people across the U.S. have already contracted this virus.
Obama’s action allows Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the spread of the virus.
The President signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.
Ever since the H1N1 flu began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 22,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frieden said that having 46 states reporting widespread flu transmission is traditionally the hallmark of the peak of flu season. To have the flu season peak at this time of the year is “extremely unusual.”
The CDC said 11.3 million of vaccinations had been distributed throughout the United States, Frieden said. Frieden also acknowledged that manufacturing delays have contributed to less vaccine being available than expected.
Due to the shortage of the vaccines, only pregnant mothers and children are being given the vaccination shot now – till further supplies improve.
The proclamation gives health care authorities greater authority to deal with the pandemic and bypass beaurocratic channels.
“We continue to have widespread activity of H1N1 influenza. 46 states are reporting widespread activity. We have had up until now many millions of cases of pandemic influenza in the U.S. Another administration official said the move is “not tied to the current case count” and “gives the federal government more power to help states” by lifting bureaucratic requirements both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it’s most needed, as numbers continue to increase,” said CDC director Tom Frieden.
“The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities,” Obama said in a statement.
“Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response.”
Calling the emergency declaration “an important tool in our kit going forward,” one administration official called Obama’s action a “proactive measure that’s not in response to any new development.”
The Swine Flu started in Mexico in March/April 2009 and and has taken endemic proportions in U.S. as well as other parts of the world. As of now the vaccinations are helping only those people who have not so far been infected with the H1N1 virus. Those who are infected have been hospitalised and are being treated seperately.