Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Swine Flu Declared a National Emergency

Saturday President Obama declared the H1N1 flu, also known as the swine flu, a national emergency. The move allows Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary to quicken the regulatory process for health providers if they are besieged with cases of the swine flu, by waiving certain regulations.

The declaring of a federal emergency, according to White House officials, was not because there has been a major increase in the number of H1N1 cases, even though the numbers have been increasing gradually. The move was to help health care facilities when they become inundated with cases of H1N1. This will allow them the ability to make quick moves to contain H1N1 flu cases, including moving patients diagnosed with the virus to a designated area of their facility or moving them to another treatment facility, such as a nearby armory. Declaring a national emergency can also allow some of the restrictions placed on Medicare and Medicaid patients to be removed.

According to the president’s declaration of a national emergency, cases of the swine flu do continue to grow across the country, and “the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities.” The waiver could remove the chances of a hospital being overwhelmed by cases of the swine flu and allow hospitals to set up off-site locations where anyone with symptoms of the swine flu would go for treatment. Public health experts said the move by the president is a relief, even though health services are not strained yet, the cases have continued to increase significantly during the month of October.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention between August 30th and October 17th there have been 2,416 deaths attributed to the swine flu, and the virus has already led to at least 21,823 Americans being hospitalized. Prior to that time, from April through August, there were 593 deaths and 9,079 hospitalizations. The virus is now considered active and spreading in 46 states,

While the more seasonal flu virus mostly affects the elderly, the swine flu tends to affect children. The number of children the U.S. has already lost to the swine flu is more than usually die during the entire flu season. Pregnant women, young adults and children seem to be more at risk.

Officials initially had hoped to have at least 120 million doses of swine flu vaccines available by mid-October, but there have been some production problems and only 16 million doses have been made available.

The government is taking some rather large measures to help when treating H1N1, including the now-established emergency. Do not panic, because the declaration was not because of a huge surge in cases of the flu. The move was a proactive step to help hospitals if they are inundated with a large number of flu cases due the virus continuing to grow across the U.S. While the number of H1N1 flu vaccines available is less than what had been expected, there are some available and more are due for arrival. Call your doctor or health department to schedule a vaccine today.

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