Obama earmarks emergency funding to fight swine flu

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President Barack Obama today earmarked 1.825 billion dollars (£1.11 billion) in emergency funding to help fight the spread of swine flu.

The money is part of 7.65 billion dollars (£4.7 billion) already approved by Congress for use by the US Health Department as it strives to prevent the H1N1 virus taking further hold when flu-friendly conditions return in the autumn.

Latest statistics show that 211 people in the US have died of the illness, with 37,246 reported cases across the country. But officials estimate that up to one million people across America may have been infected thus far.

Today's announcement of the release of funds came in an open letter by Mr Obama to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In it the president said that the allocation of emergency funds was needed to address "critical needs related to emerging influenza viruses".

The money will go towards purchasing vaccine components as well as helping plan for immunisation campaigns.

Mr Obama said: "There remains much uncertainty about the outbreak and its potential to return this fall during the northern hemisphere flu season.

"We continue to watch the evolution of the 2009-H1N1 virus and the worldwide outbreaks and are working diligently to plan and prepare for a national response, should it be necessary."

The move follows a swine flu summit in the US at which health and education officials discussed the best way to prepare in advance of a possible resurgence of sickness following the summer.