Friday, May 01, 2009

flu prompts shutdowns in mexico, texas

NYTime | The swine flu continues to spread slowly but surely, with 114 confirmed cases in 12 states on Thursday, up from 91 in 10 states on Wednesday. Many more states have suspected cases, and 11 countries have been affected so far.

But little else seems sure about the disease, including how bad it will turn out to be and even its name, now officially influenza A(H1N1), according to the World Health Organization.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” said Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It is a situation filled with uncertainty.”

Dr. Besser praised a decision by the W.H.O. on Wednesday to raise the global alert level to Phase 5, one step below a pandemic. He said the move would not affect the United States, which is already taking measures against the outbreak, but would alert other countries to get pandemic plans in order. On Thursday, officials of the health organization said Phase 5, which means a pandemic is highly likely, was still the appropriate level.

In this country, hundreds of schools have closed, including Fort Worth’s entire school district of about 80,000 students. Texas has 26 confirmed cases.

On Thursday, the White House disclosed that a member of the Obama administration delegation that traveled to Mexico in mid-April probably contracted the disease. The man had flu symptoms when he returned to Washington, and spread the illness to his wife and son, but he and his family have recovered and he is back at work. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said the man did not work closely with the president and never posed any risk to him.

In Canada, the confirmation of 15 additional cases on Thursday brought the total number of cases there to 34.

Mexico now has 312 confirmed cases and 12 confirmed fatalities. More than 2,500 cases are suspected, and at least 150 people are believed to have died of the disease.