Sunday, April 26, 2009

The White House Press Briefing on Swine Flu: US Department of Health and Human Services declares a public health emergency in the US

Just after 12:30 pm EDT, the White House Office of the Press Secretary hosted a press briefing on swine flu. During the briefing, representatives from the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services provided an update on the swine flu situation in the US and Mexico.

The following is a list of key points highlighted during the briefing:
  1. The Department of Health and Human Services (the equivalent of the US Ministry of Health) declared a public health emergency in the US
    - This is a standard operating procedure and may sound more severe than it actually is
    - This declaration allows the government to free up federal, state, and local agencies and resources for prevention and mitigation efforts

  2. The public health community is enhancing disease surveillance to better understand the scope and magnitude of the outbreak

  3. Top officials emphasized early identification as a vitally important component in the overall response effort. Early identification is important for:
    - recognizing additional cases and sites of infection quickly;
    - responding rapidly with guidance for the public health community and the general public in the infected area; and
    - triggering an assessment of capabilities to mitigate the effects of a broader outbreak.

Key Actions:
"...there is a role for everyone to play when there's an outbreak going on. There are things that individuals do, there [are] things that families do, and [there are things] communities do to try to reduce the impact." --Dr. Richard Besser, Acting Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

These officials stressed that influenza is unpredictable and outbreaks of infectious diseases are extremely unpredictable and variable, so guidelines and recommendations will remain fluid and likely will change based on the information at hand. Individuals should follow hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick with influenza, stay home from work or school, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them, and do not take public transportation. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Practice forward thinking with regard to being prepared for a pandemic or localized outbreak. Visit for more information on how to prepare yourself and your family:

To read the entire press briefing transcript, please click on the link below:

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