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Napolitano could gain back some points by handling swine flu

A national poll last week showed 45 percent of Americans do not think Janet Napolitano is doing a good job as secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The swine flu problem – at least as far as her role in it – might provide her the opportunity to win more support after a rough beginning as a member of President Obama's Cabinet.

Things seemed to go well for her over the weekend as she made a White House press conference appearance about the swine flu outbreak, but there is debate now over whether the government should shut down the border with Mexico, a country in which more than 150 deaths are suspected as a result of the flu.

Napolitano defended the government's position not to close the border on April 27 as reporters asked her about the risk of asymptomatic swine flu carriers entering the United States from Mexico. She said identifying and isolating people who seem ill as they try to cross the border was an adequate strategy given the circumstances.

"We're already doing passive surveillance at the border," Napolitano said. "You would close the border if you thought you could contain the spread of disease, but the disease is already in a number of U.S. states."

Those infected with swine flu might not show symptoms for a few days, prompting Napolitano to say border closure is "a very difficult judgment to make."

Pressed about her acknowledgment asymptomatic flu carriers could enter the country, Napolitano stressed the need for personal responsibility in preventing the spread of the disease. "If people are sick, and if you believe you have the flu … we're asking people don't go to school, don't go to work and don't go to a place where you can infect other people."

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