President Obama began a press conference to mark his 100th day in office with a topic he probably wouldn't have expected a week ago: advising Americans to take "very sensible precautions" against the swine flu but not to "panic."
Mr. Obama appeared as though he was trying to strike a delicate verbal balance between underreaction and overreaction, saying that the federal government was closely coordinating with state and other health officials and suggesting simple precautions such as hand-washing and keeping sick children home from school. "It sounds trivial but it makes a huge difference," he said.
The president also said that it was time for Americans to develop "contingency plans" if school or business closings disrupt their personal lives. "Our public health officials have recommended that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of this flu strongly consider temporarily closing," he said. "And if more schools are forced to close, we've recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if their children do have to stay home."
The swine flu has caused one confirmed death in the United States so far, and seven confirmed deaths in Mexico. Mexican Health Secretary Jose Cordova says he believes the situation is stabilizing.
Also on Wednesday, the World Health Organization raised its alert level for swine flu -- also being called Mexican Flu or H1N1 flu -- one level on fears that a global pandemic is imminent.
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