White House Briefing: Swine Flu

PRESS BRIEFING ON SWINE INFLUENZA BYSECRETARY NAPOLITANO, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, JOHN BRENNAN, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM, DR. RICHARD BESSER, ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, AND ROBERT GIBBS, PRESS SECRETARY

MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon, guys. Thank you for taking some time out of your Sunday afternoon. We wanted to bring together many of the people that have the primary governmental responsibility in dealing with the situation and to discuss the government’s capacity and capability to discuss the steps the government is taking to address this.

Three people we’ll hear from today and then we’ll take some questions: First, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Dr. Richard Besser, the Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security.

So with that I’ll turn it over to Mr. Brennan.

MR. BRENNAN: Thank you, Robert. And thank you, everyone, for coming here today.

Obviously, President Obama is very concerned about the recent cases of swine flu that have been identified in the United States, as well as the outbreak in Mexico. The President’s thoughts are with those who have been affected by this illness. He is monitoring the situation very closely and has supported a very active, progressive and coordinated response by his administration.

The President wants Americans to be fully informed of the situation, which is why we have convened this press briefing today. The vast majority of these cases have occurred in Mexico. Building on the close bilateral cooperation that President Obama advanced during his recent visit to Mexico, he has asked me to publicly convey his full support to President Calderón, the Mexican government and the Mexican people in their efforts to contain the outbreak.

Both the U.S. and Mexican governments are taking steps to reduce the potential for further transmission. Our goal is simple: to communicate information quickly and clearly for our citizens, to rapidly address any new cases that emerge, and to have the capacity to effectively limit the spread.

At this point a top priority is to ensure that communication is robust and that medical surveillance efforts are fully activated. This will enable both the rapid identification and broad notification of any new cases that may occur in the U.S., as well as in Mexico.

We believe that our increased surveillance efforts have resulted in the identification of new cases over the last 24 hours. Early identification is vitally important to the overall effort. In the event that additional cases or sites of infection occur within the United States we want to recognize them quickly and then respond rapidly with appropriate guidance for the public health community and the general public in the infected area. We also want to ensure medical surveillance and testing and the provision of medications and medical supplies are distributed where necessary.

I would like to share with you some of the steps the administration has taken to ensure that information about this evolving event is flowing swiftly among federal, state and local partners, between U.S., Mexican, Canadian and other governments and with the World Health Organization.

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