White House Briefing: Swine Flu

Clearly we all have individual responsibility for dealing with this situation. We should all be practicing good hygienic practices, such as hand-washing on a regular basis; if you feel sick, it makes sense to stay home; and then also following the other practices that are common sense when we deal with an outbreak of flu every year.

I would ask that you hold your questions until after Dr. Besser and Secretary Napolitano have finished their remarks.

DR. BESSER: Thank you, Mr. Brennan. First, I want to say that our hearts go out to the people in Mexico and the people in the United States who’ve been impacted by this outbreak. People around the country and around the globe are concerned with this situation we’re seeing, and we’re concerned as well. As we look for cases of swine flu, we are seeing more cases of swine flu. We expect to see more cases of swine flu. We’re responding and we’re responding aggressively to try and learn about this outbreak and to implement measures to control this outbreak.

Let me provide for you an update in terms of where we are today and what kinds of public health actions are being taken here as well as abroad. Today we can confirm that there are 20 cases of swine flu in the United States. We have five affected states: There are eight cases confirmed in New York City, there’s one case confirmed in Ohio, two in Kansas, two in Texas, and seven in California.

And again, as we continue to look for cases, I expect that we’re going to find them. We’ve ramped up our surveillance around the country to try and understand better what is the scope, what is the magnitude of this outbreak.

The good news — all of the individuals in this country who have been identified as cases have recovered. Only one individual had to be hospitalized. But I expect as we continue to look for cases, we are going to see a broader spectrum of disease. What we know about this virus is it looks to be the same virus as is causing the situation in Mexico. And given the reports out of Mexico, I would expect that over time we’re going to see more severe disease in this country.

There are some things that it’s important people understand: Flu viruses are extremely unpredictable and variable; outbreaks of infectious disease are extremely unpredictable and variable. And so over time what we say about this and what we learn will change. Expect changes in terms of the number of cases. We’re going to try and give you consistent information and have it on our web site once a day, so that we don’t get into the situation where you’re hearing different numbers of cases throughout the day — we’re going to report that daily.

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