blind_html Fwd: Swine Flu may not be as big a threat as once thought

  • From: Nimer Jaber <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 02 May 2009 11:58:58 -0600

This is not any less dangerous guys. Please be careful.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        Swine Flu may not be as big a threat as once thought
Date:   Sat, 2 May 2009 03:51:36 -0400
From:   Jack Lowe <jlowe27@xxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To:       Blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To:     Chit Chat group <Blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>





The swine flu outbreak that has alarmed the world for a week now
appears less ominous, with the virus showing little staying power in the
hardest-hit cities and scientists suggesting it lacks the genetic
fortitude of past killer bugs. President Barack Obama even voiced hope
Friday that it may turn out to be no more harmful than the average
seasonal flu. In New York City, which has the most confirmed swine flu
cases in the U.S. with 49, swine flu has not spread far beyond cases
linked to one Catholic school. In Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak,
very few relatives of flu victims seem to have caught it. A flu expert
said he sees no reason to believe the virus is particularly lethal. And
a federal scientist said the germ's genetic makeup lacks some traits
seen in the deadly 1918 flu pandemic strain and the more recent killer
bird flu. Still, it was too soon to be certain what the swine flu virus
will do. Experts say the only wise course is to prepare for the worst.
But in a world that's been rattled by the specter of a global pandemic,
glimmers of hope were more than welcome Friday. "It may turn out that
H1N1 runs its course like ordinary flus, in which case we will have
prepared and we won't need all these preparations," Obama said, using
the flu's scientific name. The president stressed the government was
still taking the virus very seriously, adding that even if this round
turns out to be mild, the bug could return in a deadlier form during the
next flu season. New York officials said after a week of monitoring the
disease that the city's outbreak gives little sign of spreading beyond a
few pockets or getting more dangerous. All but two of the city's
confirmed cases so far involve people associated with the high school
where the local outbreak began and where several students had recently
returned from Mexico. More than 1,000 students, parents and faculty
there reported flu symptoms over just a few days last month. But since
then, only a handful of new infections have been reported ; only eight
students since last Sunday. Almost everyone who became ill before then
are either recovering or already well. The school, which was closed this
past week, is scheduled to reopen Monday. No new confirmed cases were
identified in the city on Friday, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the
outbreak in New York had so far proved to be "a relatively minor
annoyance." In Mexico, where swine flu has killed at least 16 people
and the confirmed case count has surpassed 300, the health secretary
said few of the relatives of 86 suspected swine flu patients had caught
the virus. Only four of the 219 relatives surveyed turned up as probable
cases. As recently as Wednesday, Mexican authorities said there were
168 suspected swine flu deaths in the country and almost 2,500 suspected
cases. The officials have stopped updating that number and say those
totals may have even been inflated. Mexico shut down all but essential
government services and private businesses Friday, the start of a
five-day shutdown that includes a holiday weekend. Authorities there
will use the break to determine whether emergency measures can be eased.
In the Mexican capital, there were no reports of deaths overnight ; the
first time that has happened since the emergency was declared a week
ago, said Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. "This isn't to say we are lowering our
guard or we think we no longer have problems," Ebrard said. "But we're
moving in the right direction." The U.S. case count rose to 161 on
Friday, based on federal and state counts, although state laboratory
operators believe the number is higher because they are not testing all
suspected cases. Worldwide, the total confirmed cases passed 650,
although that number is also believed to be much larger. Besides the
U.S. and Mexico, the virus has been detected in Canada, New Zealand,
China, Israel and eight European nations. There were still plenty of
signs Friday of worldwide concern. China decided to suspend flights
from Mexico to Shanghai because of a case of swine flu confirmed in a
flight from Mexico, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. And
in Hong Kong, hundreds of hotel guests and workers were quarantined
after a tourist from Mexico tested positive for swine flu, Asia's first
confirmed case. Evoking the 2003 SARS outbreak, workers in protective
suits and masks wiped down tables, floors and windows. Guests at the
hotel waved to photographers from their windows. Scientists looking
closely at the H1N1 virus itself have found some encouraging news, said
Nancy Cox, flu chief at the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Its genetic makeup doesn't show specific traits that showed
up in the 1918 pandemic virus, which killed about 40 million to 50
million people worldwide. "However, we know that there is a great deal
that we do not understand about the virulence of the 1918 virus or other
influenza viruses" that caused serious illnesses, Cox said. "So we are
continuing to learn." She told The Associated Press that the swine flu
virus also lacked genetic traits associated with the virulence of the
bird flu virus, which grabbed headlines a few years ago and has killed
250 people, mostly in Asia. Researchers will get a better idea of how
dangerous this virus is over the next week to 10 days, said Peter
Palese, a leading flu researcher with Mount Sinai Medical School in New
York. So far in the United States, he said, the virus appears to look
and behave like the garden-variety flus that strike every winter. "There
is no real reason to believe this is a more serious strain," he said.
Palese said many adults probably have immune systems primed to handle
the virus because it is so similar to another common flu strain. As for
why the illness has predominantly affected children and teenagers in New
York, Palese said older people probably have more antibodies from
exposure to similar types of flu that help them fight off infection.
"The virus is so close," he said. In the United States, most of the
people with swine flu have been treated at home. Only nine people are
known to have ended up in the hospital, though officials suspect there
are more. In Mexico, officials have voiced optimism for two days that
the worst may be over. But Dr. Scott F. Dowell of the CDC said it's
hard to know whether the outbreak is easing up in Mexico. "They're still
seeing plenty of cases," Dowell said. He said outbreaks in any given
area might be relatively brief, so that they may seem to be ending in
some areas that had a lot of illness a few weeks ago. But cases are
occurring elsewhere, and national numbers in Mexico are not abating, he
said. A top Mexican medical officer questioned the World Health
Organization's handling of the early signs of the swine flu scare,
suggesting Thursday that a regional arm of the WHO had taken too long to
notify WHO headquarters of about a unusually late rash of flu cases in
Mexico. The regional agency, however, provided a timeline to the AP
suggesting it was Mexico that failed to respond to its request to alert
other nations to the first hints of the outbreak. The Mexican official,
chief epidemiologist Dr. Miguel Angel Lezana, backtracked Friday,
telling Radio Formula: "There was no delay by the Mexican authorities,
nor was there any by the World Health Organization." In the U.S., Obama
said efforts were focused on identifying people who have the flu,
getting medical help to the right places and providing clear advice to
state and local officials and the public. The president also said the
U.S. government is working to produce a vaccine down the road,
developing clear guidelines for school closings and trying to ensure
businesses cooperate with workers who run out of sick leave. He pointed
out that regular seasonal flus kill about 36,000 people in the United
States in an average year and send 200,000 to the hospital. ___
Associated Press writers Malcolm Ritter in New York, Lauran Neergaard in
Washington, and Paul Haven, E. Eduardo Castillo, Andrew O. Selsky and
Istra Pacheco in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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