President Barack Obama says he has no plans to close the United States' border with Mexico, despite the swine flu threat. At a White House news conference, the president called for other measures to fight the flu.
As the swine flu spread to eleven states, President Obama said Wednesday the virus is cause for deep concern, but not panic. Despite the outbreak, he said his health advisers see no reason to close the U.S.-Mexico border.
"From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States."
At a news conference marking his 100th day in office, Mr. Obama said his administration has increased screening efforts and made sure medical supplies are sent where they are needed. He has requested $1.5 billion to help prepare for a possible epidemic.
The president said Americans must maintain great vigilance and respond appropriately to the H1N1 virus. "The most important thing right now that health officials have indicated is that we treat this the same way that we would treat other flu outbreaks, just understanding that because this is a new strain, we do not yet know how it will respond. So we have to take additional precautions," he said.
Mr. Obama is suggesting that Americans wash their hands frequently, watch for flu symptoms, and stay home from work if they notice those symptoms. He also called on local officials to close schools if necessary.
Earlier in the day, the president's new Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, discussed her priorities in fighting the flu outbreak. "The focus is very clear: saving lives, slowing down the spread and severity of the flu virus. And by doing both of those things minimizing the economic and social impact of this H1N1 2009 virus," she said.
Less than 24 hours after being confirmed and sworn in, Sebelius urged the public to stay calm. "Panicking is probably not terribly helpful. What is helpful is turning concern and worry into action steps." she said.
The Health and Human Services chief said the government has enough of the antiviral drugs to treat 50 million people, and has begun shipping those treatments to the states.