The first thing I want to announce today is that the Department of Health and Human Services will declare today a public health emergency in the United States. That sounds more severe than really it is. This is standard operating procedure and allows us to free up federal, state, and local agencies and their resources for prevention and mitigation; it allows us to use medication and diagnostic tests that we might not otherwise be able to use, particularly on very young children; and it releases funds for the acquisition of additional antivirals.
So you’ll see those declarations coming out today. And when I say “standard operating procedure,” that’s exactly what I mean. We issued similar declarations for the recent floods in Minnesota and North Dakota and for the inauguration.
Second, I want to give you some information about where we are with respect to antiviral drugs. These are the kinds of things you would take should you get sick with this strain of flu. We have 50 million treatment courses of antiviral drugs — Tamiflu and Relenza — in the strategic national stockpile. We are releasing 25 percent of those courses, making them available to all of the states, but particularly prioritizing the states where we already have confirmed incidents of the flu. In addition, the Department of Defense has procured and strategically prepositioned 7 million treatment courses of Tamiflu.
The United States Department of Agriculture is heavily involved in monitoring and testing to ensure that there is no issue with our food supply, and everything looks fine. I want to underscore that you cannot get the swine flu from eating pork. So that’s very important. And we’re screening and testing livestock to monitor any developments there.
Next, in the Department of Homeland Security, we have a number of components with direct responsibility here. The CBP is inventorying for every duty station and every employee our resources, personal protective equipment, and so forth, to make sure that we have adequate supplies on hand at the borders themselves.
Secondly, we have implemented passive surveillance protocols to screen individuals who may arrive at our borders. All persons entering the United States from a location of human infection of swine flu will be processed through all appropriate CBP protocols. Right now those are passive. That means that they’re looking for people who — and asking about, are you sick, have you been sick, and the like; and if so, then they can be referred over for further examination.
Travelers who do present with symptoms, if and when encountered, will be isolated per established rules. They will be provided both with personal protective equipment and we will continue to emphasize universal health measures like hand-washing and gloves. And if and when the situation develops all CBP sites can implement and we can deploy additional personnel to the borders.