President Barack Obama raised the possibility of school closings Wednesday, saying education officials with confirmed cases of swine flu infection might need to temporarily shut down classes if conditions worsen.
Giving an update on this rapidly spreading health menace, Obama said, "Every American should know that the federal government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to control this virus."
Obama said he wanted to extend "my thoughts and prayers" to the family of a 23-month-old boy who has died in Texas, representing the first confirmed U.S. fatality in a widening health emergency that has now also swept Germany onto the list of afflicted nations.
Canada, Austria, New Zealand, Israel, Spain and Britain also have reported cases of swine flu sickness in addition to the three reported in Germany. Deaths reported so far have been limited to Mexico, with over 150, and now the U.S., with the single toddler death and some 66 infections.
Appearing at a White House event at which he and Vice President Joe Biden welcomed Democratic convert Sen. Arlen Specter, Obama urged health agencies across the United States to report any new infections to state and federal authoritiesw "in a timely way."
"It's also the recommendation of public health officials that schools with confirmed cases .... should consider closing if the situation becomes more serious," the president said. In that scenario, Obama said, "parents should also think about contingencies if schools in their areas should shut down ... . Just sending a (sick) child from a school to a day care center would not be a good solution."
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