The US declared a public health emergency to deal with the emerging new swine flu Sunday, as a Nova Scotia public health official confirmed that four cases of the epidemic have been detected in a Canadian province.
The precautionary step doesn't signal a greater threat to Americans. But it allows the federal and state governments easier access to flu tests and medications.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napilotano says roughly 12 million doses of the drug Tamiflu are being released from a federal stockpile so that states can get it if needed.
Napilotano said at a White House news conference Sunday that the emergency declaration is standard operating procedure — one was recently declared for the inauguration and for flooding.
Twenty cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the United States so far, officials said Sunday.
Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House briefing that all of the US cases have been mild.
US officials said President Barack Obama is being briefed regularly on the potential spread of the new strain of flu, which has taken as many as 83 lives in Mexico.
"At this point, a top priority is to ensure that communication is robust and that medical surveillance efforts are fully activated," John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security, said at a White House news conference.
He said beefed up monitoring would enable rapid identification and notification of any new cases that might occur in the United States and Mexico.
Besser said the CDC has confirmed one case of swine flu in Ohio, two in Kansas and eight in New York. There were already seven confirmed cases in California and two in Texas. Officials emphasized that the US cases are not as severe as the cases that have been identified in Mexico.Nevertheless, the officials recommended planning for potential US school closures.
Reuters contributed to this report