Schwarzenegger: California prepared for swine flu outbreak

Governor Arnold SchwarzeneggerLos Angeles - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that California was fully prepared to deal with the outbreak of swine flu, while a health official said the number of cases in the state could jump from seven to 15. Some 40 cases have so far been confirmed in the United States - 28 of them in New York. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, confirmed seven cases in California.

"Our state agencies have taken several critical steps," Schwarzenegger said. "We have experts deployed and are tracking patients statewide. The bottom line is that we are prepared."

He said the state had activated its joint emergency response system, which combines the public health department and the state emergency management agency.

Schwarzenegger was speaking at a press conference in Beverley Hills as officials in the state capital, Sacramento, confirmed that they had ordered shut St Mels Catholic school where a student had become ill with a mild case of flu.

The Austrian-born former movie star said he backed calls from other countries advising their citizens to avoid travel to the US. "It's probably a wise decision," he said. "The number one thing we have to concentrate on is the safety of the people."

Health officials speaking with Schwarzenegger said that in addition to the seven confirmed cases of swine flu, an eight case was almost certain to be confirmed and eight more cases were also likey to be identified as swine flu.

The officials said that none of the cases confirmed so far had been linked with travel to or relatives in Mexico. As a precaution, the federal government had already started shipping to California 25 per of the state's allocation of inoculations, officials said.

Despite the global alert and advisories against travelling to Mexico - the epicentre of the outbreak - Schwarzenegger said there were no reason to close the border between the two countries.

"It's a federal matter but we are working closely together with Mexican health officials and there are no travel restrictions," he said. "The key thing for everyone to know is that the federal, state and international community are working together to control the issue." (dpa)