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US 'swine flu' emergency declaration allows regulatory waivers

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama's Saturday emergency declaration [text, PDF; press release] on the H1N1 flu [CDC backgrounder] has granted Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website] Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [official profile] authority under section 1135 of the Social Security Act [text] to allow medical providers to bypass federal regulations when it comes to treating large numbers of infected people. Hospitals and other facilities will be allowed to set up off-site care in order to accommodate more people, and also take measures to prevent uninfected people from catching the virus. The declaration also allows Sebelius to temporarily waive or modify certain provisions of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule [HHS backgrounder] as required.

On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [official website] announced [press release] that 46 states had reported widespread influenza activity. It is believed that there have been more than 1,000 deaths directly attributed [Washington Post report] to the virus, with another 2,400 deaths presumed to be related. The CDC also reported [press release] Friday, that it has more than 14 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine, and that it has already shipped more than 11 million doses. In addition to the resources available from the CDC, the US government has developed a website [official website] providing pandemic flu information to the public.

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