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Public Health Emergency Declared for Entire US Gulf Coast Region

U.S. authorities have declared a public health emergency for the entire Gulf Coast region and warned of the possible spread of diseases in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt warned of worsening sanitary and health conditions in the stricken areas, and said officials are gravely concerned about potential outbreaks of cholera, typhoid and other illnesses.

He called on residents to use caution when consuming food and not to drink standing water.

He told a news conference in Washington that authorities are setting up a network of up to 40 medical shelters that will have a total of up to 10,000 beds. He said those who need further treatment will be moved to facilities elsewhere.

Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff said the situation in the region remains very dangerous.

Officials have warned of unstable structures and have called on residents not to return to the affected areas.

Some information for this report provided by AP.