Hopefully the new measure will help control the situation more effectively.
President Obama signed a proclamation declaring the H1N1 influenza a national emergency, giving doctors and medical facilities greater leeway in responding to the flu pandemic.
Obama signed the declaration late Friday, which the White House said allows medical treatment facilities to better handle a surge in flu patients by waiving federal requirements on a case-by-case basis.
“The foundation of our national approach to the H1N1 flu has been preparedness at all levels — personal, business, and government — and this proclamation helps that effort by advancing our overall response capability,” the White House said in a statement.
The flu has infected millions of Americans and killed nearly 100 children in the U.S. The chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that over a thousand people have died as a result, with 46 states reporting widespread H1N1 activity.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen more than 1,000 deaths and 20,000 hospitalizations,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC. “We expect it to occur in waves, but we can’t predict when those waves will happen.“
Sixty million Americans have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu this year, but an additional vaccine against H1N1 has been in short supply. About 120 million doses were expected to be made available by the middle of October, though only 11 million doses have been shipped to health departments for use.
While the governments and health agencies scramble for finding the cure the number of lives that normal flu claims is also a cause of worry and needs to be checked.
As influenza is caused by a variety of species and strains of viruses, in any given year some strains can die out while others create epidemics, while yet another strain can cause a pandemic. Typically, in a year’s normal two flu seasons (one per hemisphere), there are between three and five million cases of severe illness and up to 500,000 deaths worldwide, which by some definitions is a yearly influenza epidemic. Although the incidence of influenza can vary widely between years, approximately 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations are directly associated with influenza every year in the United States. Roughly three times per century, a pandemic occurs, which infects a large proportion of the world’s population and can kill tens of millions of people (see history section). Indeed, one study estimated that if a strain with similar virulence to the 1918 influenza emerged today, it could kill between 50 and 80 million people.