Swine Flu Outbreak; Never Before Seen Mixture? UPDATED

(Look for 4/24/09 Afternoon Update at the bottom of this post. More updates following…)

Last night I stumbled across this from Reuters:

Seven people in U.S. hit by strange new swine flu

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) – Seven people have been diagnosed with a new kind of swine flu in California and Texas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. All seven people have recovered but the virus itself is a never-before-seen mixture of viruses typical among pigs, birds and humans, the CDC said. “We are likely to find more cases,” the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat told a telephone briefing. “We don’t think this is time for major concern around the country.” Only one of the seven cases was sick enough to be hospitalized and all have recovered, Schuchat said. CDC officials are unsure whether the cases are related to an unusually late and severe flu season in Mexico in which 20 people have died.

This morning there are more details.

US ‘very concerned’ about swine flu outbreak

US medical authorities expressed strong concern Friday about an unprecedented multi-strain swine flu outbreak that has killed at least 60 people in Mexico and infected seven people in the United States.“It’s very obvious that we are very concerned. We’ve stood up emergency operation centers,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesman Dave Daigle told AFP.

One major source of concern was that the virus included strains from different types of flu.

“This is the first time that we’ve seen an avian strain, two swine strains and a human strain,” said Daigle, adding that the virus had influenza strains from European and Asian swine, but not from North American swine. (emphasis mine)

In 11 of 12 reported human cases of swine influenza (H1N1) virus infection in the United States from December 2005 to February 2009, the CDC has documented direct or indirect contact with swine.

But the seven known cases of the previously undetected strain in the United States — five from California and two from Texas — did not have contact with pigs. The seven people infected have all recovered from the flu.

“We have determined that this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human,” the CDC said on its website. “However, at this time, we have not determined how easily the virus spreads between people.”

Local and state health officials were interviewing not just the people who were infected but the people with whom they had contact, Daigle noted.

Officials were looking for the source of the infection, Daigle said, adding that US health officials were due to receive samples from Mexico that would be tested at a lab at the centers based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified swine influenza as a potential source of a human flu pandemic. Pandemics usually occur every 20 years.

“Our experts and others are saying are not saying it’s not a matter of whether but when. And we are past due,” said Daigle.

Buckle up people.  I will keep you updated on my current research into the 1918 pandemic.

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UPDATE: 4/24/09 Afternoon

Deadly new flu strain erupts in Mexico, U.S.

“Our concern has grown as of yesterday,” Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Global health officials were not ready to declare a pandemic — a global epidemic of a new and deadly disease such as flu. “So far there has not been any change in the pandemic threat level,” Besser said.

But the human-to-human spread of the new virus raised fears of a major outbreak. Mexico’s government suspended classes for millions of children in Mexico City, where scared residents rushed out to buy face masks and kept their kids at home.

“We’re frightened because they say it’s not exactly flu, it’s another kind of virus and we’re not vaccinated,” said Angeles Rivera, 34, a government worker who fetched her son from a public kindergarten that was closing. (Just for those that care to know, I have NEVER had a flu shot and have only had the flu twice in the last 31 years.)

NO CONTAINMENT

Canada has not reported any cases of the flu and is not issuing a travel warning for Mexico, but the country’s chief public health officer David Butler-Jones said the outbreak was “very concerning” and Canada was paying close attention.

The CDC’s Besser said it was probably too late to contain the outbreak. “There are things that we see that suggest that containment is not very likely,” he said. Once it has spread beyond a limited geographical area it would be difficult to control.

But there is no reason to avoid Mexico, CDC and the WHO said. “CDC is not recommending any additional recommendations for travelers to California, Texas and Mexico,” Besser said.

Personally, I would be calling and emailing the CDC telling them to shut the border given the suspected 1,004 cases currently in Mexico.  Of course, it may just be too late.  Interested parties can reach the CDC at 1-800-232-4636 and email cdcinfo@cdc.gov.

Here is another tidbit which could be something completely different.

Possible Swine Flu Outbreak At NYC Prep School

Department Of Health Officials Testing 75 Students At St. Francis Preparatory School In Queens

New York City health officials say that about 75 students at a Queens high school have fallen ill with flu-like symptoms and testing is under way to rule out the strain of swine flu that has killed dozens in Mexico.

The Health Department’s Dr. Don Weiss said Friday that a team of agency doctors and investigators were dispatched to the private St. Francis Preparatory School the previous day after students reported fever, sore throat, cough, aches and pains. No one has been hospitalized.

The handful of sick students who remained at the school were tested for a variety of flu strains. If they’re found to have a known human strain that would rule out swine flu.

Results could take several days. In the meantime, the school says it’s postponing an evening event and sanitizing the building over the weekend.

Update: 4/25/09

Navyvet48 (resident of Kansas) has just informed me that there are two confirmed cases of this flu in Kansas and 8 of 9 suspected in the NYC prep school outbreak…waiting for confirmation on that one.

How many of you think this flu outbreak was put out to keep the tea parties from continuing to happen?

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