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U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu - NYC, USA, Global News
 
 
  "Responding to what some health officials feared could be the leading edge of a global pandemic emerging from Mexico, American health officials declared a public health emergency on Sunday as 20 cases of swine flu were confirmed in this country, including eight in New York City."
 
"the C.D.C. confirmed that eight students at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, Queens, had been infected with the new swine flu. At a news conference on Sunday.....all those cases had been mild and that city hospitals had not seen a surge in severe lung infections......Besides the eight New York cases, officials said they had confirmed seven in California, two in Kansas, two in Texas and one in Ohio. The virus looked identical to the one in Mexico believed to have killed 103 people - including 22 people whose deaths were confirmed to be from swine flu - and sickened about 1,600. As of Sunday night, there were no swine flu deaths in the United States, and one hospitalization.....Canada confirmed six cases, at opposite ends of the country: four in Nova Scotia and two in British Columbia. Canadian health officials said the victims had only mild symptoms and had either recently traveled to Mexico or been in contact with someone who had.....governments issued advisories urging citizens not to visit Mexico. China, Japan, Hong Kong and others set up quarantines for anyone possibly infected. Russia and other countries banned pork imports from Mexico, though people cannot get the flu from eating.....Hong Kong, shaped by lasting scars as an epicenter of the SARS outbreak, announced very tough measures. Officials there urged travelers to avoid Mexico and ordered the immediate detention of anyone arriving with a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit after traveling through any city with a confirmed case, which would include New York......"We may just be looking at the tip of the iceberg, which would give you a skewed initial estimate of the case fatality rate," he said, meaning that there might have been tens of thousands of mild infections around the 1,300 cases of serious disease and 80 or more deaths. If that is true, as the flu spreads, it would not be surprising if most cases were mild......Another hypothesis, Dr. Cetron said, is that some other factor in Mexico increased lethality, like co-infection with another microbe or an unwittingly dangerous treatment.....There is an H1N1 human strain in this year's shot, and all H1N1 flus are descendants of the 1918 pandemic strain. But flus pick up many mutations, and there will be no proof of protection until the C.D.C. can test stored blood serum containing flu shot antibodies against the new virus. Those tests are under way, said an expert who sent the C.D.C. his blood samples."
 

What Is Swine-Flu & How Can Humans Catch It?
 

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Should we be worried about this swine flu outbreak?
Updated Mon. Apr. 27 2009 7:37 AM ET Angela Mulholland, CTV.ca News
 
What is a swine flu?
Like humans, pigs get the flu. They develop a sudden fever, a barking cough, sneezing, lethargy and typically lose their appetite. Humans can catch a swine flu usually when people have direct contact with pigs; historically, there's such a case every year or two in the U.S. What is this swine flu outbreak?
 
The virus responsible for this outbreak is a subtype of Influenza A/H1N1 that has never been detected in swine or humans.
 
The new virus appears to be made up of four different flu viruses: North American swine influenza; a swine influenza virus typically found in Asia and Europe; human influenza A; and a North American avian influenza. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Dr. Anne Schuchat calls it "an unusually mongrelized mix of genetic sequences."
 
What makes this new virus worrisome is how easily it appears to be able to pass from person to person. With cases popping up across the globe every day, how far this virus has already spread has yet to be fully assessed.
 
Why are we calling this outbreak 'swine flu'?
 
Technically, this influenza virus is no longer a swine flu. This new strain does not appear to be infecting pigs; it's infecting humans.
 
The CDC was the first to use the term "swine flu" to describe this virus after initial analysis suggested the virus had many of the characteristics of a wine flu. Further tests revealed it also contained genetic material from a human flu virus and avian flu virus.
 
How did this new strain develop?
No one yet knows. That investigation could took a long time and the answer might never be found.
 
Even though this new strain of influenza A H1N1 contains some elements of swine influenza virus, it may not have started in pigs. It could as well have been bred in birds or even another mammal.
 
Whatever the origin of the current outbreak, it is likely the "swine flu" name is going to stick.
 
Why is a new strain worrisome?
 
If an influenza virus changes and becomes a new strain against which people have little or no immunity -- and if this new strain can easily spread from person to person and cause severe illness in a high percentage of people that it infects -- the seeds would be sown for a pandemic that could sicken and kill many people around the world.
 
Epidemiologists have been warning for years that it's just a matter of time before a new strain of the flu emerges that has the potential to kill millions. Flu pandemics have historically occurred about three times per century and the world hasn't seen one in more than 40 years.
 
The World Health Organization estimates that in the best case scenario, the next pandemic could kill two to seven million people and send tens of millions to hospital.
 
Do we have a pandemic strain of influenza virus here?
We're not yet sure. It's clear the virus can spread easily from person to person. But its virulence is being debated.
 
The good news is that so far, the number of deaths from this virus is relatively low. In countries where the virus is just being found, such as Canada, it's causing such mild illness, it's running its course in two to three days, in some cases without treatment.
 
Is there a vaccine?
There is no vaccine as the genetic makeup of this virus is still being analyzed. The CDC has not announced that they're developing a vaccine. But if they do, it would likely take weeks if not months before it were widely available.
 
For swine influenzas that affect pigs, there is a vaccine available that can be given to pigs; there is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu. I got the flu shot this year. Am I protected?
 
Not likely. This is a virus that has never been seen before; therefore, vaccines for human flu would not provide adequate protection from the swine flu material contained in this virus. It may offer some protection though against the human flu genetic elements.
 
Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food; you cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products.
 
What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of our regular flu, with sudden onset of: fever
lethargy
lack of appetite
coughing
Some people with swine flu have also reported:
runny nose
sore throat
nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
 
How is the virus transmitted?
Human-to-human transmission of swine flu is believed to occur the same way as seasonal flu, mainly through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus.
 
People also can become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
 
How can I protect myself from this virus?
Since influenza spreads through spit and spray as well as contact with contaminated surfaces, the usual good personal hygiene habits are the best defence.
 
Wash your hands repeatedly through the day with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Avoid touching you mouth, nose or eyes with your hands unless they've been washed. When coughing, cough into a tissue and throw it in the garbage. If you cough into your hand, wash your hands immediately. Sanitize surfaces that may have come into contact with the virus.
 
With human flu, the virus is most contagious between the second and third days after infection, but the virus is still contagious for about 10 days. Can we treat swine flu in humans?
 
Yes. Most of the infections have been treated successfully, though there have been deaths in Mexico. In most cases, patients with this swine flu have recovered on their own. In those who have had to be hospitalized, this virus has been treated with antiviral medications.
 
The virus appears to be resistant to amantadine and rimantadine but has been susceptible to zanamivir and oseltamivir (Tamiflu).
 
Have there been swine flu outbreaks before?
Yes. Most famously, there was an outbreak in 1976 at Fort Dix, N.J., among military recruits that grabbed big headlines at the time.
 
Worried that they had the beginning of a pandemic on their hands, U.S. officials ordered the manufacture of swine flu vaccine and the country launched a mass immunization program that saw about 40 million people vaccinated.
 
But the outbreak didn't turn into a pandemic and went away as mysteriously as it appeared.
 
Sources: The Canadian Press, Public Health Agency of Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
 

U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu
 
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
NY Times April 26, 2009
 
Responding to what some health officials feared could be the leading edge of a global pandemic emerging from Mexico, American health officials declared a public health emergency on Sunday as 20 cases of swine flu were confirmed in this country, including eight in New York City.
 
Crews began sanitizing St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens on Sunday. The school will be closed Monday and Tuesday.
 
People took precautions on Sunday to attend Mass in Mexico City. Swine flu is believed to have killed 103 people in Mexico.
 
Other nations imposed travel bans or made plans to quarantine air travelers as confirmed cases also appeared in Mexico and Canada and suspect cases emerged elsewhere.
 
Top global flu experts struggled to predict how dangerous the new A (H1N1) swine flu strain would be as it became clear that they had too little information about Mexico's outbreak - in particular how many cases had occurred in what is thought to be a month before the outbreak was detected, and whether the virus was mutating to be more lethal, or less.
 
"We're in a period in which the picture is evolving," said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, deputy director general of the World Health Organization. "We need to know the extent to which it causes mild and serious infections."
 
Without that knowledge - which is unlikely to emerge soon because only two laboratories, in Atlanta and Winnipeg, Canada, can confirm a case - his agency's panel of experts was unwilling to raise the global pandemic alert level, even though it officially saw the outbreak as a public health emergency and opened its emergency response center.
 
As a news conference in Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the emergency declaration "standard operating procedure," and said she would rather call it a "declaration of emergency preparedness."
 
"It's like declaring one for a hurricane," she said. "It means we can release funds and take other measures. The hurricane may not actually hit."
 
American investigators said they expected more cases here, but noted that virtually all so far had been mild and urged Americans not to panic.
 
The speed and the scope of the world's response showed the value of preparations made because of the avian flu and SARS scares, public health experts said.
 
The emergency declaration in the United States lets the government free more money for antiviral drugs and give some previously unapproved tests and drugs to children. One-quarter of the national stockpile of 50 million courses of antiflu drugs will be released.
 
Border patrols and airport security officers are to begin asking travelers if they have had the flu or a fever; those who appear ill will be stopped, taken aside and given masks while they arrange for medical care.
 
"This is moving fast and we expect to see more cases," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the news conference with Ms. Napolitano. "But we view this as a marathon."
 
He advised Americans to wash their hands frequently, to cover coughs and sneezes and to stay home if they felt ill; but he stopped short of advice now given in Mexico to wear masks and not kiss or touch anyone. He praised decisions to close individual schools in New York and Texas but did not call for more widespread closings.
 
Besides the eight New York cases, officials said they had confirmed seven in California, two in Kansas, two in Texas and one in Ohio. The virus looked identical to the one in Mexico believed to have killed 103 people - including 22 people whose deaths were confirmed to be from swine flu - and sickened about 1,600. As of Sunday night, there were no swine flu deaths in the United States, and one hospitalization.
 
Other governments tried to contain the infection amid reports of potential new cases including in New Zealand and Spain.
 
Dr. Fukuda of the W.H.O. said his agency would decide Tuesday whether to raise the pandemic alert level to 4. Such a move would prompt more travel bans, and the agency has been reluctant historically to take actions that hurt member nations.
 
Canada confirmed six cases, at opposite ends of the country: four in Nova Scotia and two in British Columbia. Canadian health officials said the victims had only mild symptoms and had either recently traveled to Mexico or been in contact with someone who had.
 
Other governments issued advisories urging citizens not to visit Mexico. China, Japan, Hong Kong and others set up quarantines for anyone possibly infected. Russia and other countries banned pork imports from Mexico, though people cannot get the flu from eatingpork.
 
In the United States, the C.D.C. confirmed that eight students at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, Queens, had been infected with the new swine flu. At a news conference on Sunday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that all those cases had been mild and that city hospitals had not seen a surge in severe lung infections.
 
On the streets of New York, people seemed relatively unconcerned, in sharp contrast to Mexico City, where soldiers handed out masks.
 
Hong Kong, shaped by lasting scars as an epicenter of the SARS outbreak, announced very tough measures. Officials there urged travelers to avoid Mexico and ordered the immediate detention of anyone arriving with a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit after traveling through any city with a confirmed case, which would include New York.
 
Everyone stopped will be sent to a hospital for a flu test and held until it is negative. Since Hong Kong has Asia's busiest airport hub, the policy could severely disrupt international travel.
 
The central question is how many mild cases Mexico has had, Dr. Martin S. Cetron, director of global migration and quarantine for the Centers for Disease Control, said in an interview.
 
"We may just be looking at the tip of the iceberg, which would give you a skewed initial estimate of the case fatality rate," he said, meaning that there might have been tens of thousands of mild infections around the 1,300 cases of serious disease and 80 or more deaths. If that is true, as the flu spreads, it would not be surprising if most cases were mild.
 
Even in 1918, according to the C.D.C., the virus infected at least 500 million of the world's 1.5 billion people to kill 50 million. Many would have been saved if antiflu drugs, antibiotics and mechanical ventilators had existed.
 
Another hypothesis, Dr. Cetron said, is that some other factor in Mexico increased lethality, like co-infection with another microbe or an unwittingly dangerous treatment.
 
Flu experts would also like to know whether current flu shots give any protection because it will be months before a new vaccine can be made.
 
There is an H1N1 human strain in this year's shot, and all H1N1 flus are descendants of the 1918 pandemic strain. But flus pick up many mutations, and there will be no proof of protection until the C.D.C. can test stored blood serum containing flu shot antibodies against the new virus. Those tests are under way, said an expert who sent the C.D.C. his blood samples.
 
Reporting was contributed by Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Washington, Jack Healy from New York, Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong and Ian Austen from Ottawa.
 
 
 
 
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