White House Briefing: Swine Flu

MR. GIBBS: I’ll check with NEC. I don’t know of anything related to that at this point, but we can certainly check.

Yes, ma’am.

Q What haven’t you banned U.S. travel to Mexico and why haven’t you changed the U.S. alert level in the face of this — unless the declaration of public health emergency is doing that?

DR. BESSER: I can comment. We have at CDC posted an outbreak notification regarding Mexico, and we’re continuing to watch the situation there and evaluate. And should it be warranted, we would make a change in that regard.

In terms of the stages and phases of pre-pandemic situations, the real important take-away is that we have an outbreak of a new infectious disease that we’re approaching aggressively. And it matters much less what you call it. Those things are designed to trigger actions, but we trigger our actions based on what we’re seeing here in-country as well as what we see around the globe. And given that this new strain is something we’re experiencing here on the ground, we’re being very aggressive and addressing that based on what we’re seeing in each community.

Q What has been discovered so far about why people in Mexico have died, but not elsewhere?

DR. BESSER: That’s an unanswered question. We have folks on the ground and we haven’t been able to find an answer for that. There are a number of different hypotheses and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to shed some light on that as these teams get more established and continue their studies.

Q For Dr. Besser, is there evidence of ongoing transmission in Mexico, or are the cases being picked up there ones that happened in the last couple of weeks and are over? Or are there new chains of transmission being generated?

DR. BESSER: Again, I don’t want to comment on the situation on the ground in Mexico. I’ve not heard that it is stopping. Their overall flu surveillance is only showing a small increase from what they would see annually, which, again, makes it difficult to use some of the surveillance tools to measure the impact of a new strain when you’re in the midst of another flu season.

Q Just to follow up on what the President — for you, Robert — what the President — did you say that he has not been treated with any kind of –

MR. GIBBS: I said yesterday that he had not been. I will recheck with the doctor. Again, based on the incubation period, neither he, nor anybody that he traveled with, nor anybody in the press corps that I’m aware of would have exhibited any symptoms that would have caused any heightened awareness.

Q But the doctor didn’t check him out –

MR. GIBBS: No. Again, in the absence of symptoms — I think this probably goes without saying, too — in the absence of symptoms, you shouldn’t go get tested. That’s going to crowd any sort of either public health or private health infrastructure. If you are sick or you do have symptoms, then you should take precautions. But there’s not reason to believe that his — or anybody that traveled with him — health was in any sort of jeopardy.

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