US President Barack Obama has declared the H1N1 influenza outbreak a national emergency, aimed at enabling health centres to act quickly as the number of swine flu cases rises across the country.

The declaration gives authority to the US Department of Health and Human Services to waive certain regulatory requirements for healthcare facilities to better deal with the ongoing pandemic.

Hospitals and clinics will be able to implement disaster operation plans quickly, such as establishing alternate screening locations or setting up tents in hospital parking lots for extra emergency room care.

Healthcare facilities will be able to submit waivers for modified patient triage protocols, patient transfer procedures and other actions that occur when they implement disaster plans.