Swine Flu Update: 1,000+ Sick, 60 Dead in Mexico; 9 U.S. Cases

Posted on April 24, 2009

Yesterday, news broke that the CDC was tracking several cases of swine flu in the U.S. with five cases in San Diego and two in San Antonio, Texas. It turns out that the CDC was looking into these cases because of a serious outbreak of swine flu in Mexico that has killed over 60 people and infected over 1,000. The World Health Organize (WHO) says the strain is of high concern. The influenza virus is infecting and killing primarily young, healthy people.
The Government of Mexico has reported three separate events. In the Federal District of Mexico, surveillance began picking up cases of ILI starting 18 March. The number of cases has risen steadily through April and as of 23 April there are now more than 854 cases of pneumonia from the capital. Of those, 59 have died. In San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico, 24 cases of ILI, with three deaths, have been reported. And from Mexicali, near the border with the United States, four cases of ILI, with no deaths, have been reported.

Of the Mexican cases, 18 have been laboratory confirmed in Canada as Swine Influenza A/H1N1, while 12 of those are genetically identical to the Swine Influenza A/H1N1 viruses from California.

The majority of these cases have occurred in otherwise healthy young adults. Influenza normally affects the very young and the very old, but these age groups have not been heavily affected in Mexico.

Because there are human cases associated with an animal influenza virus, and because of the geographical spread of multiple community outbreaks, plus the somewhat unusual age groups affected, these events are of high concern.
The WHO says it is sending experts to Mexico to work with health authorities. Reuters reports that the CDC says it is too late to contain the virus using isolation methods.
he U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it was too late to contain the swine flu outbreak in the United States.

CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser told reporters in a telephone briefing it was likely too late to try to contain the outbreak, by vaccinating, treating or isolating people.

"There are things that we see that suggest that containment is not very likely," he said.
Flu is also very hard to contain as it is an airborne virus and spreads very easily from person-to-person. The Mexican government is trying to contain the outbreak by shutting down schools, libraries, museums and theatres in Mexico City.

The CDC is still investigation the virus and does not know enough about it yet to fully ascertain the level of threat it poses. They say it is a "never-before-seen mixture of swine, human and avian viruses."

This is a serious health threat that should get the attention of the very top levels of the U.S. government. It sounds like the CDC and WHO are involved and investigating. They should know best how to activate any resources they need.

Update: Reuters latest report says 61 people have died in Mexico from the swine flu outbreak. 8 people in the U.S. have been infected and all have recovered.