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Obama Pledges Government Action to Deal With Swine Flu Outbreak


U.S. President Barack Obama says schools should consider closing if cases of swine flu are even suspected among students or faculty. Mr. Obama spoke just hours after the United States recorded the first known death outside Mexico.

President Obama extended condolences to the family of a 23-month-old child who succumbed to the flu in Texas, as well as all sufferers of the illness.

"This is obviously a serious situation, serious enough to take the utmost precautions," he said.

The president urged health officials across the nation to work as quickly as possible to identify and report new cases of swine flu. He said schools should consider temporarily closures, and that parents should make contingency plans for such a possibility. One school in New York has been shut down since the discovery that dozens of students there were ill with the virus.

Mr. Obama noted that he has requested $1.5 billion of emergency funding from Congress for medicine and medical equipment, and to boost planning and coordination among health officials.

He said all Americans can take common-sense steps to stem transmission of swine flu.

"Keep your hands washed. Cover your mouth when you cough," said Mr. Obama. "Stay home from work if you are sick. Keep your children home from school if they are sick."

Mr. Obama was speaking at the White House, where he appeared with Vice President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who left the Republican Party on Tuesday to become a Democrat.

Mexico remains the epicenter of the swine flu outbreak, with more than 150 deaths blamed on the virus. Confirmed cases have been reported in Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Austria, Israel and New Zealand. More than five-dozen cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the United States, with three-fourth of the cases reported in New York.

Although it could take months to develop and distribute an effective vaccine for this particular influenza strain, health officials say two anti-viral treatments appear effective in limiting the severity and duration of the illness. The U.S. government is making millions of doses of the treatments available to state and local officials.

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