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Obama Seeks to Ease Fears on Swine Flu

April 27, 2009
by ROBERT PEAR and GARDINER HARRIS
New York Times

In a speech at the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, Mr. Obama said only a few words about swine flu. "This is, obviously, a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert," he said. "But it's not a cause for alarm."

But behind the scenes at the White House, aides said the president was directing his administration to be ready in case an alarm needed to be sounded. A full report on the swine flu was added to Mr. Obama's daily intelligence briefing, with updates given to him throughout the day..

Finding the right mix of alarm and reassurance is a delicate task for an elected official.

Eric Toner, a senior associate at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said: "It can be very dangerous to overreact. And it can be very dangerous to underreact." So far, Mr. Toner said, Obama administration officials "have managed to get it just right."

Other public health experts also endorsed the administration's response to the outbreak that emerged from Mexico. They gave much of the credit to President Bush, whose administration did extensive planning for such an emergency.

"We're seeing a payoff of the original investment made in pandemic preparedness by the Bush administration," said Jeffrey W. Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. The term pandemic refers to a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease.

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