Sat Oct 24, 2009 6:46pm EDT

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has declared 2009 H1N1 swine flu a national emergency, the White House said on Saturday.

The declaration will make it easier for U.S. medical facilities to handle a surge in flu patients by allowing the waiver of some requirements of Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health insurance programs as needed, the White House said in a statement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that swine flu has become widespread in 46 of the 50 U.S. states, a level comparable to the peak of ordinary flu seasons but far earlier and with more waves of infection expected.

Obama signed the statement on Friday night.

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•  Health Canada takes word of others H1N1 vaccine safe (Link)
•  Montreal has 3 critically ill and 40 new cases as ‘second wave’ arrives (Link)

•  Beijing’s first severe A/H1N1 flu case dies of other illnesses (Link)

•  Indonesia says no policy change on bird flu samples (Link)

•  1st confirmed death of man 29 in Ankara/capital city (Link)

United States
•  CA: Frustration looms as H1N1 vaccines run out (Link)
•  MA: Dramatic increase in H1N1 seen (Link)
•  MI: Health Experts Surprised By School Closings (Link)
•  NY: Hand sanitizer in short supply as swine flu hits (Link)
•  TX: Mass swine flu vaccinations in the works in Dallas County (Link)
•  TX: That flu shot you meant to get? It could be too late (Link)
•  WI: Substitute teacher shortage (Link)

•  Seven more die from swine flu in Vietnam (Link)

•  UC Davis’ international effort to prevent new pandemics (Link)