Swine Flu Spreads in Mexico and U.S.

April 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are an estimated 1,600 cases in Mexico with up to 103 deaths. No cases have been reported in the Valley.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Swine Flu: General Information
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In the U.S. there are 40 confirmed cases and a travel advisory is being readied instructing Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico.

President Obama is urging calm. "This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it is not a cause for alarm."

That heightened state of alert has reached the U.S.-Mexico border. Anyone crossing into the U.S. will be watched for flu-like symptoms, but there are no plans to close the border.

Dr. Richard Besser, acting director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "We have cases here in five states that are not contiguous. And so, a border control strategy as a means of not letting something into the country would not be very effective."

The State Department is considering a travel warning for Mexico. Airlines have not cancelled flights but are waiving fees if travelers want to change reservations. About 12-million doses of anti-flu drugs like Tamiflu have been released from national stockpiles. The drugs are not preventative vaccines but officials hope they can be effective against Swine Flu symptoms.

Schools in New York, California, Texas and Ohio that have cases of students with Swine Flu have been shut down.

The government is also asking for the public's help. Janet Napolitano secretary, Department of Homeland Security: "If you are sick, stay home. Wash your hands. Take all those reasonable measures."

U.S. officials still don't know why the outbreak is worse in Mexico where at least nearly 150 people have died. "I am not reassured that we have not seen more severe cases in this country . From what we understand in Mexico, I think people need to be ready for the idea that we could see more severe cases in this country; and possibly deaths," said Dr. Besser.

Thankfully officials have not seen that yet in this country. The World Health Organization said there are now 40 cases of Swine Flu confirmed in the U.S., but those cases have all been mild.

New York City has seen the biggest cluster of Swine Flu cases outside of Mexico with 20 confirmed cases now and an additional 17 probable cases.

Eight students were confirmed to have the illness at St. Francis High School in Queens. Investigators think the students got Swine Flu when they were vacationing in Mexico three weeks ago.

This past weekend sanitation crews cleaned up the school. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he understands the fear many people have but the school's principal thinks the worst maybe over. "I know New Yorkers are concerned and very understandably and many are confused about what they should do."

Principle Leonard Conway said, "Today I feel a little better because we now know what the issue is and we know how to treat it."

There could be more confirmed cases at the school though. At least 100 other kids have complained of flu-like symptoms.

Not all the news is bad in New York. Sick kids at a Bronx daycare center came back negative for Swine Flu.

More countries reported Swine Flu cases on Monday. Spain reported the first case in Europe. But two more cases are suspected in Scotland. This comes after New Zealand reported its own cases yesterday.

The top European health official urged Europeans to postpone non-essential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico. Meanwhile airports across the world now are monitoring travelers to see if they have Swine Flu symptoms.

The Swine Flu is a virus that infects pigs but has mutated so humans can catch it and pass it easily from one person to another.

Experts are worried because this is a new form of the flu virus and humans have little or no resistance to it. The symptoms are the same as the regular flu; so if you have them, you should see your doctor because they want to test you.

There is no vaccine to prevent this flu, but it is treatable with drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza. You can protect yourself and others by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and washing your hands frequently.

Here in the Valley, hospitals and clinics are on the lookout for people with Swine Flu symptoms. So far, there have been no reported cases, but health workers have been asked to test anyone who comes in with suspicious flu-like symptoms.

Family Nurse Practitioner Paul Knapp sees about 40 patients a day at his Clovis urgent care clinic. He said his patients are worried because the common flu and the Swine Flu have similar symptoms. "You'll have respiratory symptoms, cough, runny nose, which almost everyone in the valley has these days with the crazy weather we've had. But, additionally, you're gonna have a fever and you're gonna be really tired."

Doctors said the most important thing to do to keep safe is keep up with your personal hygiene. Always wash your hands, and cover your mouth when you cough.

So far, there are no signs at Fresno's airport warning people traveling to Mexico about Swine Flu.

A few passengers arriving from Guadalajara early this morning said they were given masks as a precaution. Some local travel agents said some people are delaying their trips to Mexico, because of the outbreak. Those who are heading south of the border are prepared. "If anybody's sneezing or coughing I'm gonna put my mask on, said Lupe Mendez of Fresno, "You can't live afraid of things. You can just...just wear a mask, be careful."

Managers at De Alba Travel in downtown Fresno said a handful of clients have changed their plans because of the health concerns, and some of them are losing out on some cash because the airline companies are only reimbursing fees into Mexico City, and not Guadalajara.

Meanwhile travelers coming in out and Los Angeles International Airport aren't taking any chances. Several travelers could be seen wearing face masks as they arrived from Mexico. Like the people who flew into Fresno airport, passengers flying to L.A.X. were given face masks by officials in Mexico.

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