This HHS widget leads to the best federal government site for updated flu information.

President Signs H1N1 Emergency Declaration

The declaration clears hospitals to set up alternate sites to house sick patients. It does not speed up vaccine delivery to the states.

The White House said President Obama signed an H1N1 influenza emergency declaration Friday night. Its practical effect is to allow U.S. hospitals to set up alternate sites to house sick patients, which some hospitals already are doing. About 60 million Americans already have been vaccinated for seasonal flu, and thousands are lining up for H1N1 vaccinations.

Groups of the population considered at high risk – young children; pregnant women, who are six times more likely than others to be infected, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden stressed during a Friday briefing; those with underlying medical conditions; and health care workers – are first in line.

U.S. flu activity continued to increase Oct. 11-17, according to CDC, which says flu activity is now widespread in 46 states. "Nationwide, visits to doctors for influenza-like-illness are increasing steeply and are now higher than what is seen at the peak of many regular flu seasons. In addition, flu-related hospitalizations and deaths continue to go up nationwide and are above what is expected for this time of year," the agency reported Oct. 23.

CDC expects about 28 million doses of H1N1 vaccines to be available in the United States by the end of October, far below an earlier prediction of 120 million doses.

If you feel sick and think you may have seasonal or H1N1 flu, Britain's National Pandemic Flu Service and the Mayo Clinic offer online assessment tools to self-diagnose your illness:

https://www.pandemicflu.direct.gov.uk/

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/flu-symptoms/FU00013

If you want updates about the three vaccines authorized by the European Commission to be distributed in EU countries -- Celvapan, made by Baxter International and authorized Oct. 6; Focetria, made by Novartis; and Pandemrix, made by GlaxoSmithKline -- visit those companies' sites and the flu pages of the European Medicines Agency:

www.novartis.com

www.baxter.com

www.glaxosmithkline.com

http://www.emea.europa.eu/influenza/home.htm

The World Health Organization posts flu updates frequently and released a new report Thursday that said infant vaccinations worldwide hit a new high, 106 million, in 2008 partly because the flu pandemic raised awareness:

www.who.int/en

In the United States, www.flu.gov and the CDC Web site are two great sources. Another one you might not know about is CIDRAP, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy:

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/swineflu/index.html

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