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U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency in Response to Swine Flu
Date:4/26/2009

A precautionary measure, the move allows federal and state governments easier access to flu tests and medications

SUNDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials declared a public health emergency Sunday in response to the swine flu outbreak, as the number of confirmed cases nationwide rose to 20.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the declaration was a precautionary measure, and did not mean that the threat posed by the outbreak was worsening. But, the move allows federal and state governments easier access to flu tests and medications, she said.

"That [a public health emergency] sounds more severe than it really is. This is standard operating procedure, and allows us to free up federal, state and local agencies and their resources for prevention and mitigation. It allows us to use medication and diagnostic tests that we might not otherwise be able to use, and it releases funds for the acquisition of additional antivirals," Napolitano said during a press conference at the White House.

Napolitano said the federal government had 50 million doses of the antiviral flu medication Tamiflu, and a quarter of those doses were being released to states, if needed, "particularly prioritizing the states where we already have confirmed incidence of the flu."

All 20 U.S. patients -- eight in New York, seven in California, two in Texas, two in Kansas and one in Ohio -- have recovered, Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the news conference.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, believed to be the source of the outbreak, authorities continued to take dramatic steps over the weekend -- including suspending public gatherings -- to try to contain the swine flu outbreak that officials say has killed as many as 86 people, and sickened more than 1,400 others in that country.

In the United States, eight more cases of swine flu, all
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