"I don't want anybody to be alarmed, but I do want everyone to be prepared," he said.
The global swine flu epidemic first emerged in April, sickening more than 1 million Americans and killing about 500. More than 2,000 people have died worldwide. Health officials are preparing for a surge in cases this fall, and one White House report from a panel of experts suggests up to half the U.S. population could catch swine flu during a pandemicVaccine development is ongoing and is likely to be available by October. The president said the vaccine for swine flu - known as the H1N1 virus - would be voluntary, but "strongly recommended."
Certain groups are more vulnerable to swine flu, including children under 2, pregnant women and people with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
Like the seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Obama said there are common sense precautions people can take to lower their risk of infection, like washing their hands frequently and staying home if they feel sick.
"I know it sounds simple, but it's important and it works," Obama said.
The federal government is reintroducing a powerful weapon in the fight against the H1N1 flu virus: Elmo.Kathleen Sebelius and Elmo spoke in May at a news conference about the H1N1 flu public service ads.
The popular Sesame Street character will be featured in a series of public service advertisements meant to encourage better hygiene among young children, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.
In the ads, Elmo teams up with Gordon, another Sesame Street veteran, to stress the importance of basic healthy habits such as frequent hand washing, sneezing into the bend of your arm, and not touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson says Mississippi's health and emergency leaders appear prepared to handle the swine flu.Thompson and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute met privately Tuesday with health, education and emergency management officials to discuss the H1N1 flu virus.
"We came to hear what the issues were and learn what the challenges were in getting prepared," Lute said a news conference after the meeting. "What we heard was a great deal of awareness about the flu. That's a real strength as the flu season approaches."
When asked if Mississippi appeared to have its swine flu efforts under control, Thompson replied: "At this point, yes."Mississippi has 586 confirmed swine flu cases and two deaths as of Tuesday. Hundreds of other suspected cases have been reported on school and college campuses.
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