JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama with cabinet officials at White House event on swine flu preparations.
President Obama with cabinet officials at White House event on swine flu preparations. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama stepped into the White House Rose Garden today to assure Americans that his administration is prepared for the swine-flu season to come. Of course, he didn't call it swine flu since the administration, sensitive to the pork industry's concerns, prefers to call it it H1N1.
Flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after a meeting of his swine-flu team, the president said:
As I said when we saw the first cases of this virus back in the spring, I don't want anybody to be alarmed but I do want everybody to be prepared. We know that we usually get a second, larger wave of these flu viruses in the fall. And so response plans have been put in place across all levels of government. Our plans and decisions are based on the best scientific information available and as the situation changes, we will continue to update the public.
We're also making steady progress on developing a safe and effective flu vaccine and we expect a flu shot program will begin soon. This program will be completely voluntary but it will be strongly recommended. "
For all that we do in the federal government however, everybody has a roll in responding to this virus. We need state and local governments on the front line to make antivirals available and be ready to take whatever steps are necessary to support the health-care system.
We need hospitals and health-care providers to continue preparing for an increased patient load and to take steps to protect health-care workers. We need families and businesses to insure that they have plans in place if a family member, a child or a co-worker contracts the flu and needs to stay home
And most importantly, we need everyone to get informed about individual risk factors and we need everyone to take the common sense steps we know can make a difference. Stay home if you're sick, wash your hands frequently, cover your sneezes with your sleeve, not your hands. And take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy. I know it sounds simple but it's important and it works.