The Secretary participated in a briefing at the White House today on H1N1 preparedness with President Obama, other cabinet secretaries, and White House officials. After the meeting, President Obama was joined by the cabinet secretaries in the Rose Garden and he talked about their meeting, which was focused on the importance of public preparation for H1N1 as we head into flu season.
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 H1N1 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, every American has a role to play in responding to this virus. We need state and local governments on the front lines to make antiviral medications and vaccines 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 ensure 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 that 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.
The government recently released updated guidance for businesses and schools, and flu.gov will continue to be a great resource for individuals in advance of flu season. September, as we posted on earlier today, is National Preparedness Month, and every American shares a responsibility to be ready for H1N1 this fall.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.