White House Briefing: Swine Flu

First, the President is receiving regular updates and briefings on the situation. I updated the President earlier today. The President has reviewed our national capabilities to mitigate the effects of a broader outbreak in the United States and the steps we are taking to support state and local governments and their public health experts.

I am consulting closely with Secretary Napolitano, who is the principal federal official for domestic incident management with responsibility for spearheading our efforts. The Homeland Security Council has convened an interagency body of senior federal experts to facilitate coordination among the federal departments and agencies that have a role in recognizing, responding to, and communicating with domestic and international partners regarding health incidents that have the potential for significant impact to our nation’s well-being.

This group has been conferencing daily to share updates and to identify actions we can take now to respond to developments in an accelerated and effective manner. The information and decisions of the group are reported daily to senior leaders in the federal government and throughout the White House. Additional reports are provided as new information of significance becomes available.

While the President and his administration are actively coordinating the overall government response, individual departments and agencies with specific responsibilities as well as unique expertise and experience in dealing with public health risks are leading key elements of the effort.

For example, the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the overall effort to coordinate disease surveillance, medical preparedness, and guidance to public health professionals in the event that further cases are detected. The Departments — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has responsibility for identifying and tracking the spread of the disease and for communicating health-related information to the government, media, and public. To this end, the CDC has held regular public briefings since Friday.

In a moment, Dr. Richard Besser, the Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will provide an update on the situation in the United States and Mexico, as well as where health professionals and the public can go for reliable information and guidance on swine influenza.

As I mentioned, Secretary Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security have the overall lead for coordinating the federal response to an influence epidemic in the United States. The department is closely coordinating with Health and Human Services and CDC to monitor the situation.

After Dr. Besser speaks, you will hear from Secretary Napolitano, who will update you on the department’s efforts to coordinate response preparations and actions to date. The Secretary also will describe actions that are underway to ensure communication of timely and accurate information at land borders and at ports of entry as well as to travelers who seek additional information.

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