White House Briefing: Swine Flu

Q If I could follow up on that, is it true that it took a week until after Mexico had invoked its own protective measures before the U.S. was notified of this? And is it a significant concern that HHS is in charge of this at a time when it doesn’t have a Secretary?

DR. BESSER: In terms of detection and reporting, you know, the confirmation of swine flu from Mexico was shared with us immediately. There was great collaboration between Canada and Mexico on doing that testing. I’m in daily communication with their public health leadership and the collaborations have been absolutely superb. We share information about what we’re seeing here and they’re sharing information about what they’re seeing in Canada and in Mexico.

Q They sent those tests to Canada rather than the U.S., apparently because of paperwork.

DR. BESSER: Well, we have — there are quite a number of isolates that we’ve tested here from Mexico as well.

MR. GIBBS: In terms of a Secretary, I think these guys have given you a pretty good indication of the response mechanisms that are in place and that have been activated relating to this. So I think it’s all hands on deck and we’re doing fine. I would say we’re hopeful that we have a new Secretary very shortly.

Yes, ma’am.

Q Secretary Napolitano, I believe Japan and South Korea have both now announced that they’re going to begin testing on passengers coming in from the U.S. Why is the U.S. not doing that with passengers coming in from Mexico? And then also, do you have any indications — I know it’s still very early yet — but any indications that perhaps this might have been caused by bioterrorism, this new strain of flu?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I’ll let John answer the second part. With respect to that, we’re doing, as I said, passive surveillance now. Right now we don’t think the facts warrant a more active testing or screening of passengers coming in from Mexico, although obviously we are letting air carriers and our employees at the gates on those flights make sure that they are asking people if they’re sick; and if they’re sick, that they shouldn’t board the plane — you know, that sort of thing, passively.

But again, this is a changing dynamic that we may increase or decrease that as the facts change over the next 24, 48, 72 hours.

DR. BESSER: Yes, the question about the strain that we’re seeing here, we analyzed that strain and are continuing to do further analysis of that strain and we expect to see the emergence of new flu strains. That’s something that we are continually watching for to ensure that we’re ready should a strain emerge that there’s not immunity and protection in the community for it. This strain is not unlike other new strains that have emerged. It’s an assortment — it’s got genetic components from a number of sources, including human, swine, and avian sources. And that’s something that you see with new strains.

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