Washington: President Barack Obama pressed Congress to release $1.5 billion to enhance US and global capacity to respond to the potential spread of swine flu, the White House said.
Obama said in a letter to Congress read out by spokesman Robert Gibbs that the request was made out of an abundance of caution in order to enhance America’s capability to respond to the potential spread of this outbreak.
A swine flu outbreak that began in Mexico more than two weeks ago is believed to have killed 152 people in that country and sickened thousands more, including at least 65 confirmed swine flu cases in the United States.
The state of California declared a state of emergency to tackle the swine flu outbreak on Tuesday as authorities said they were investigating two deaths in Los Angeles for possible links to the disease.
If confirmed they would be the first US fatalities.
Obama, facing a new domestic crisis in swine flu as he completes his first 100 days in office, said the funding could also go to supplementing the international response to the outbreak, with cases detected as far afield as Europe, Israel, and New Zealand.
He assured Congress that the administration was “cooperating with international organizations and health officials around the globe.”
Obama, in his letter sought ‘maximum flexibility to allow them to address this emerging situation.
“Among the uses of these funds could be supplementing anti-viral stockpiles, developing a vaccine, supporting the monitoring, diagnostic and public health response capabilities and assisting international efforts to stem this outbreak,” he said.