President Barack Obama walks down the stairs of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Friday, Oct. 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency. The White House on Saturday said Obama signed a proclamation that would allow medical officials to bypass certain federal requirements. Officials described the move as similar to a declaration ahead of a hurricane making landfall.
* Disaster proclamation intended as proactive measure
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WASHINGTON, Oct 24 (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama has declared 2009 H1N1 swine flu a national emergency, the White House said on Saturday.
The declaration will make it easier for U.S. medical facilities to handle a surge in flu patients by allowing the waiver of some requirements of Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health insurance programs as needed, the White House said in a statement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that swine flu has become widespread in 46 of the 50 U.S. states, a level comparable to the peak of ordinary flu seasons but far earlier and with more waves of infection expected.
Obama signed the statement on Friday night.
The White House statement said the declaration was intended to prepare the country in case of “a rapid increase in illness that may overburden health care resources.” It was similar to disaster declarations issued before hurricanes hit coastal areas.
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