WASHINGTON (CNN) – CNN has learned that the Obama administration is planning to convene a "flu summit" next week to make preparations for the fall, as officials in Argentina declare a health emergency because 35 people have died in the Latin American nation from swine flu.
Senior Obama administration officials stressed the summit, which will be convened July 9 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, is being held strictly as a precautionary measure to make sure the U.S. is prepared for any potential swine flu outbreak, and not because of any specific fear of a crisis.
President Obama will be traveling next week to Russia, Italy and Ghana on a foreign trip, so the summit will be chaired by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, according to the officials.
The summit follows Obama's meeting this past Tuesday with several former federal officials who dealt with America's 1976 H1N1 flu outbreak and offered perspective from that crisis for current administration officials. Sebelius and White House Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan joined Obama at that meeting.
In a prepared statement after the meeting, Obama said it was valuable to hear from "a select group of individuals who could speak knowledgeably about the lessons learned from the 1976 influenza so that we can further prepare this nation for the possibility of a more severe outbreak of H1N1 flu."
Among the people who attended were William Howard Taft IV, the former general counsel at the Department of Health Education and Welfare, and Dr. Harvey Fineberg, co-author of "The Swine Flu Affair: Decision-Making on a Slippery Disease."