U.S. President Barack Obama has declared the spreading H1N1 swine flu virus to be a national emergency.
Mr. Obama has signed a proclamation which gives U.S. hospitals more flexibility if they need to handle large numbers of flu patients.
A White House statement Saturday said the proclamation allows hospitals to request waivers of some government health-care rules on a case-by-case basis.
U.S. officials say more than 1,000 Americans have died from the flu since the H1N1 outbreak began earlier this year. Millions have been infected with the virus.
The World Health Organization says about 5,000 deaths attributed to H1N1 influenza have been reported worldwide.
Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate panel that $3 billion had been forwarded to hospitals around the country to help deal with the surge of flu-related hospitalizations.
U.S. health secretary Kathleen Sebelius, told the Senate panel that while swine flu is widespread in the nation, the country is better equipped now than at any other time in history to deal with it.
She said problems delaying production of the vaccine for the virus have been corrected and that it should be available by early November to any American who wants to be vaccinated.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Bloomberg.