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Administration Declares Health Emergency

Administration Declares Health Emergency

Tony Pugh, McClatchy Newspapers

April 27, 2009

WASHINGTON — Warning that the worst is yet to come, U.S. officials Sunday declared the rapid spread of swine flu to be a public health emergency and freed up 12.5 million doses of antiviral medication to help fight the disease, which has now infected 20 people in five states.

The move comes as state and local authorities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the international health community step up public awareness, testing and surveillance in an effort to stop the disease before it becomes a global epidemic. On Sunday, four more cases were confirmed in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia .

In Mexico , where the outbreak originated, nearly 90 people have died and thousands of others have become ill from swine flu in the last several weeks.

The World Health Organization said the new swine flu strain has “pandemic potential.” A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges, people have little or no immunity to it and there’s no vaccine for it.

No deaths have been reported in the United States , but officials confirmed Sunday that eight students at a New York City high school tested positive for the disease after dozens had complained of flu-like symptoms. Some of the students had recently returned from a spring break trip to Cancun, Mexico . The school has been closed as a precaution.

Read: What you need to know about swine flu

Authorities have confirmed seven more cases in California , two in Kansas and Texas and one in Ohio . More cases are expected in the coming days

“As we continue to look for cases, I expect that we’re going to find them. We’ve ramped up our surveillance around the country to try and understand better what is the scope, what is the magnitude of this outbreak,” said Dr. Richard Besser , the acting director of the CDC.

President Obama is getting regular briefings and updates on the outbreak and the steps being taken to address the problem. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is heading the federal effort to deal with the outbreak, but numerous other departments, including Health and Human Services and Agriculture, are also involved.

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