WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The White House declared the H1N1 flu epidemic a national emergency with more than 1,000 U.S. deaths related to the illness known as "swine flu."
An order signed Friday by U.S. President Barack Obama allows officials to supersede regulations and have emergency centers away from hospitals treat flu victims. The move could reduce regular patients' exposure to the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said H1N1 is widespread in 46 states with agency Director Dr. Thomas Frieden saying "many millions" of people in the United States have had swine flu with at least 20,000 strain-related hospitalizations.
Swine flu vaccinations have been in strong demand, with people lining up well before dawn in hopes to get the shot. However, vaccine production hasn't been as rapid as officials had hoped. Health officials had expected 120 million doses of the vaccine to be available in the United States by October but production issues have kept that to less than 10 percent of estimates.
The World Health Organization said in a release Friday there have been more than 414,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 and more than 5,000 people have died because of swine flu worldwide. WHO said the reported number of illnesses is likely low since countries have stopped reporting relatively mild cases of the disease because of its prevalence.