May 2nd, 2009
11:43 AM ET
13 years ago

White House acting 'aggressively' to combat H1N1, Obama says

(CNN) - President Obama said Saturday the White House is acting “quickly and aggressively” to address the challenges posed by the H1N1 virus, citing the “potential for a pandemic” since the flu is spreading from human to human.

“We have asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you’re sick; and keep your children home from school if they’re sick,” the president said in his weekly radio address.

Obama said the administration is “investing in every resource necessary to treat this virus and prevent a wider outbreak.”

Antiviral treatment has been delivered to states so they can treat those infected, and “out of an abundance of caution,” Obama said he requested $1.5 billion from Congress, if needed, for additional antivirals, emergency equipment and the development of a vaccine to prevent the virus.

The administration also launched MySpace, Facebook and Twitter pages to keep the public updated on the virus, the president said.

“It is my greatest hope and prayer that all of these precautions and preparations prove unnecessary. But because we have it within our power to limit the potential damage of this virus, we have a solemn and urgent responsibility to take the necessary steps,” he said.

The World Health Organization reported Saturday that more than 600 people in 15 countries have been infected with the virus commonly known as swine flu.

Full transcript after the jump

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Washington D.C.

Over the last week, my administration has taken several precautions to address the challenge posed by the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. Today, I’d like to take a few minutes to explain why.

This is a new strain of the flu virus, and because we haven’t developed an immunity to it, it has more potential to cause us harm. Unlike the various strains of animal flu that have emerged in the past, it’s a flu that is spreading from human to human. This creates the potential for a pandemic, which is why we are acting quickly and aggressively.

This H1N1 flu has had its biggest impact in Mexico, where it has claimed a number of lives and infected hundreds more. Thus far, the strain in this country that has infected people in at least nineteen states has not been as potent or as deadly. We cannot know for certain why that is, which is why we are taking all necessary precautions in the event that the virus does turn into something worse.

This is also why the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that schools and child care facilities with confirmed cases of the virus close for up to fourteen days. It is why we urge employers to allow infected employees to take as many sick days as necessary. If more schools are forced to close, we’ve also recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if children do have to stay home. We have asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you’re sick; and keep your children home from school if they’re sick. And the White House has launched pages in Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to support the ongoing efforts by the CDC to update the public as quickly and effectively as possible.

As our scientists and researchers learn more information about this virus every day, the guidance we offer will likely change. What will not change is the fact that we’ll be making every recommendation based on the best science possible.

We will also continue investing in every resource necessary to treat this virus and prevent a wider outbreak. The good news is that the current strain of H1N1 can be defeated by a course of antiviral treatment that we already have on hand. We began this week with 50 million courses of this treatment in the Strategic National Stockpile. Over the course of the last few days, we have delivered one-quarter of that stockpile to states so that they are prepared to treat anyone who is infected with this virus. We then purchased an additional thirteen million treatments to refill our strategic stockpile.

Out of an abundance of caution, I have also asked Congress for $1.5 billion if it is needed to purchase additional antivirals, emergency equipment, and the development of a vaccine that can prevent this virus as we prepare for the next flu season in the fall.

The Recovery Act that Congress enacted in February also included expansions of community health centers, a dramatic increase in the training of health care workers and nurses, and $300 million for the development and deployment of vaccines – all of which will help us meet this threat.

Finally, thanks to the work that the last administration and Congress did to prepare for a possible avian flu pandemic in 2005, states and the federal government have fully operable influenza readiness plans and are better prepared to deal with such a challenge than ever before.

It is my greatest hope and prayer that all of these precautions and preparations prove unnecessary. But because we have it within our power to limit the potential damage of this virus, we have a solemn and urgent responsibility to take the necessary steps. I would sooner take action now than hesitate and face graver consequences later. I have no higher priority as President of the United States than the safety and security of the American people, and I will do whatever is necessary to protect this country. So I want to thank every American for their patience and understanding during this developing challenge, and I promise that this government will continue speaking clearly and honestly about the steps we’re taking to meet it.

Thank you.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. arithmetic is liberal

    even bumbling Gerald Ford had disease fenced in by this time

    May 2, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  2. tonycerv

    I think this would be the standard response by a president who realizes the nation has been whipped into hysterics once again by an irresponsible national media.

    How many people have died in this country from this killer pandemic virus in all the time we've been talking about it? One toddler they brought over from Mexico for treatment, is that right? I think more people have probably died from car accidents or slipping in their showers in the time it's taken me to write this comment.

    So maybe we should stop for a second and reconsider building that underground shelter or stocking up on gasmasks and maybe stop killing all the pigs in the world too. That way when we die from something completely unrelated to H1N1 influenza years from now we can at least say we weren't a bunch of crazy people when we did.

    May 2, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  3. Fernando

    Maybe h1n1 will get a date. Do you think it will be listed as sigle dating or it's complicated

    May 2, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. the rector

    Two minor points. First this is a good argument for teleconferencing, or whatever they call it these days, to limit the number of business travelers which is almost certainly how this stuff got to so many countries so quickly. Second Obama has a solemn duty to protect the constitution, and he has been hinting at eviscerating it instead. So I am a little concerned about his promises to uphold his oath of office, not to mention this flu thing is a great smoke screen for the actual agenda.

    May 2, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. S Callahan

    Sometimes I wonder..does God go online and read all the negative comments about him.....
    As much as the Govt. wants to help it can only go so far....we have failed to glorify God (he IS the Creator and everything before you should have value and a gratefulness to it)...I have been charting the 'natural' effects on land for the past few's astouding...
    those that don't believe in the spiritual really should consider reconsider their view....God has the upper hand at all times...and it sure seems like he is pouring out the vials...not to be an alarmist, I'm not...mankind has made itself so vunerable and there is only one way to change...repentence.

    May 2, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. Peter

    Lets look at the facts: This "H1N1 Virus of Doom" Has killed only one person in the U.S., which was a young boy who was visiting his relatives in the U.S., the boy originally came from Mexico. This flu or virus or whatever you call it, doesnt kill you, you'll be sick for a week or two, its the flu people. Should we be worried? Yes of course, if enough of us get sick there could be a worker shortage in parts of the country, but we need to understand that if you get it you have high chances of living unless you immune system is truly poor.

    May 2, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  7. pam Eugene OR

    600 people WORLD wide is not a reason to panic. Yes, it is serious but we have some time to see if it is a real threat.

    May 2, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  8. ryan wing


    While that's not entirely true, you also have to keep in mind that people move around a lot more than they did under Ford. Disease only goes as far as people carry it.

    May 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. JoeCool

    When is Obama going to stop this virus?

    May 2, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. LKT

    Nice to know our government is actually taking the initiative to act on the behalf of the well-being of all our citizens proactively.

    May 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. sensible Cape Coral FL

    The people themselves have got to take control of their own lives and NOT insist that the government do it for them. It is our responsibility to stay informed, take reasonable precautions and above all use common sense.

    May 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. John J

    I am broadly sceptical about this so called swine flu. I really don't think there is such. I wish people would look more into it instead of relying on mainstream media that keeps people from the true facts. A major portion of people are not thinking outside the box just as the elite want you to believe.

    May 2, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Big John

    It's nice to know President Obama is on it rather than going on vacation or struming a guitar

    May 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. Fitz in Texas

    No Mr. Obama you are not acting "quickly and aggressively". If you were you would have closed the border with the first case of Swine Flu here in Houston. Granted, the Swine Flu was here already, but had you closed the border, which you should still do, the crossing of people from Mexico into The United States wouldn't be up 75%. Our emergency rooms are already packed and now they are getting even worse.

    May 2, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. anemia is conservative

    Yes - Gerald Ford had disease "fenced in." He also had a vaccine that was more dangerous than the virus itself. Please - get a grip.

    May 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. gary davis

    keep up the good job
    we feel you are showing the not just the USA but the world that after eight years of crap shooting administration that our nation can reprove its ability to use common sense and think outside the box. and looks out for the common good of humanity and not that of big business and politics as usual.

    again keep going in the direction you are taking us

    May 2, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. Roger

    sounds like "arithmetic is liberal" is blaming President Obama for the disease not being "fenced in" who did you blame while GW was in office & why did he not "fence in" all diseases whole he was in office for 8 (LONG) years...I know he was too busy making a mess of our country....proud to be a democrat

    May 2, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. fearful for my country

    Is it really a pandemic or is it really a distraction? If there were legitimate dangers, the border would be closed rather than our schools. keep an eye on your government. All is not what it seems.

    May 2, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. Mike, Syaracuse, NY

    If they were all the 'aggressive' it would not have spread to the US. Once it was detected in Mexico, all travel to/from Mexico should have been suspended, and the boarder closed. Anyone in the US who was diagnosed should have been quarrantined. The only thing that has saved us from mass deaths has been the mildness of this strain as compared to the 1918 outbreak. They had no way of knowing it would be this mild given the early death reports from Mexico. We were complacent and got very, very lucky.

    May 2, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  20. La Chatte

    Aw, is Bambi such a control freak that he thinks the White House can actually control the virus or is it just that it's an issue everyone can agree on, even the Party of No? After all, nobody likes the flu!

    May 2, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  21. steve

    My President at work!

    May 2, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  22. catmom

    The entire 'Swine Flu' debacle is merely another 'Wag The Dog' effort to cover up the fact that the Administration is working on a concealed agenda and the media is obediently eating it up.

    May 2, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. Salas

    Sometimes comments are meant to be objective,the whole noise about the virus is not the number of people affected or killed but the fact that its a NEW strain,that means we dont have our immune system prepared for it, as such it may be devastating .

    May 2, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  24. richard

    it would be funny if the president would get it then we would have a shot at a normal country without b.s like meeting enemys and lies and fake smiles

    May 3, 2009 09:14 am at 9:14 am |