Schools with infections may have to close

WASHINGTON [SWINE FLU: Symptoms, questions and answers and more]
[INTERACTIVE MAP: Map and timeline of swine flu cases]

Speaking at the White House, Obama said Americans should know the government is doing "whatever is necessary" to contain the emerging health threat.

Giving a flu update at an event welcoming Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, Obama also said he wanted to convey his thoughts and prayers to the family of a 23-month-old child in Texas who has died from the flu, becoming the first reported fatal case in the U.S.

"This is obviously a serious situation" and "we are closely and continuously monitoring" it, Obama said.

Obama said it is the recommendation of public health officials that authorities at schools with confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu "should strongly consider temporarily closing so that we can be as safe as possible."

"If the situation becomes more serious and we have to take more extensive steps, then parents should also think about contingencies if schools in their areas do temporarily shut down, figuring out and planning what their child care situation would be," Obama advised.

Just sending children from schools to day care centers in infected areas "is not a good solution," he said.

Obama said the federal government is "prepared to do whatever is necessary to control the impact of this virus." He noted his request for $1.5 billion in emergency funding to ensure adequate supplies of vaccines.

The government needs local agencies to help by looking out for any suspected flu cases, the president said.

And he advised individuals to take their own precautions -- washing hands, staying home if they are sick, and keeping sick kids home.

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