Obama declares swine flu national emergency

President Barack Obama has declared the H1N1 flu pandemic a national emergency to prepare in case of a rapid increase in illness across the country.

Obama signed the proclamation late Friday giving medical facilities more leeway to handle the surge in patients with the H1N1 virus by waiving federal requirements on a case-by-case basis.

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“Given that the rapid increase in illness across the Nation may overburden health care resources and that the temporary waiver of certain standard federal requirements may be warranted in order to enable U.S. health care facilities to implement emergency operations plans, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the United States constitutes a national emergency,” Obama wrote in the proclamation.

Millions of Americans have reportedly been infected with what is commonly referred to as the swine flu.

Thomas Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday that more than a thousand people have died as a result of the H1N1 flu virus.

Obama also informed Congress about his proclamation of a national emergency.

“I have authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to exercise the authority under section 1135 of the Social Security Act to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule as necessary to respond to the pandemic throughout the duration of the public health emergency declared in response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic,” Obama wrote to Congress.

Meanwhile, the vaccine against H1N1 has been in short supply. Flu clinics are swamped this weekend across the country with long lines of people trying to get the vaccine.