EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 9, 2009

SWINE FLU: Report: 10% of Americans have stopped hugging, kissing close friends; updates and latest news


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Case suspected in Derry; four others possible in Londonderry

A Derry resident is New Hampshire's latest probable case of swine flu.

And as the virus apparently hit close to home yesterday, Londonderry School Superintendent Nate Greenberg said he has notified state health officials about four suspected cases at Londonderry Middle School.

Three students and an adult have experienced symptoms, but those cases are still unconfirmed, Greenberg said.

The unidentified Derry resident, an adult, is recovering at home, according to Kris Neilsen, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

For full story, click here.

26 more Mass. residents have swine flu

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts public health officials say the number of confirmed swine flu cases in the state has jumped by 26 to 71.

The state Public Health Department said Thursday they are not surprised by the dramatic increase. They say it's consistent with what has been seen in other states and reflects increased scrutiny and testing for the illness.

Of the 26 new cases, only a child under 1-year-old required hospitalization, and that child from Middlesex County has since been discharged.

The new H1N1 cases include the first two in Essex County and the first in Hampden County. They also include 14 more in Middlesex County; five in Norfolk County; three in Suffolk County; and one in Worcester County.

Nearly all the new cases are in children.

Experts: Mild swine flu could quickly turn deadly

WASHINGTON (AP) — A flu virus is a powerhouse of evolution, mutating at the maximum speed nature allows. A mild virus can morph into a killer and vice versa.

One change already made this year's swine flu more of a problem, helping it spread more easily among people. The big question is: What mutations are next? That's why scientists are watching it so closely.

"There are no rules to flu viruses; they are just so mutable," said Dr. Paul Glezen, a flu epidemiologist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "The fact that it changes all the time really confounds our efforts to control it."

Think of flu's evolution like a family tree: In the current flu's distant ancestry are last century's three pandemics. But its more immediate relatives are swine flu strains that were no big deal to humans.

The good news right now is that this flu has lost some of the most dangerous genetic traits of past pandemics. The bad news is that it's gained something its parents didn't have: the ability to spread from human to human.

WHO: up to 2 billion people might get swine flu

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization says up to 2 billion people could be infected by swine flu, if the current outbreak turns into a pandemic.

WHO flu chief Keiji Fukuda says the number wasn't a prediction, but that past experience with flu pandemics indicated one-third of the world's population gets infected.

Fukuda says that with a world population of 6 billion people, it's "reasonable" to expect that kind of infection tally.

He said WHO is unable to know what the future holds, and it is impossible now to say whether the pandemic would be mild or severe.

WHO has said it believes a global swine flu outbreak is imminent, and last week it raised its alert to five, one step short of a pandemic.

Mass. stops advising schools close for swine flu

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts officials say they are following new federal guidelines and no longer recommending that schools close if a student or staff member has swine flu.

State health and education officials said Tuesday that instead, those with flu symptoms stay home until they are no longer contagious, at least seven days. The federal government announced its new policy on Tuesday.

Officials said since the flu is both milder and more widespread, closing schools isn't practical and causes hardships for working parents and students.

A total of 34 cases have been confirmed in Massachusetts, more than half of them children. All are recovering. No public schools have closed.

Key Developments

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and government officials:

Leading US health expert urging cautious approach

WASHINGTON (AP) — A leading U.S. health expert said Monday that while "there are encouraging signs" of a leveling off in the severity of the swine flu threat, it's still too early to declare the problem under control.

"I'm not ready to say that yet," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said when asked about indications by Mexican health authorities that the disease has peaked there.

Besser did tell network television interviewers that "what we're seeing is an illness that looks very much like seasonal flu. But we're not seeing the type of severe disease that we were worrying about." He noted that roughly 36,000 people die each year in this country from the winter flu, so it's still a serious matter.

Mexico gets some bustle back after flu shutdown

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico began a cautious return to normal Tuesday, traffic picking up in the capital and cafes reopening while Cinco de Mayo celebrations were called off throughout the country.

The canceled events included the biggest one of all â€" a re-enactment of the May 5, 1862, victory over French troops in the central state of Puebla. And health experts warned that Mexico and the rest of the world needed to remain on guard against the virus.

Official: US flu victims may be infecting others

The swine flu epidemic crossed new borders Tuesday with the first cases confirmed in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, as world health officials said they suspect American patients may have transmitted the virus to others in the U.S.

Most people confirmed with the new swine flu were infected in Mexico, where the number of deaths blamed on the virus has surpassed 150.

But confirmation that people have been infecting others in locations outside Mexico would indicate that the disease was spreading beyond travelers returning from Mexico, World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl told reporters on Tuesday in Geneva.

Hartl said the source of some infections in the United States, Canada and Britain was unclear.

The swine flu has already spread to at least six countries besides Mexico, prompting WHO to raise its alert level on Monday but not call for travel bans or border closings. On Tuesday, countries, including Canada, Israel and France, warned their citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico.

"Border controls do not work. Travel restrictions do not work," Hartl said, recalling the 2003 SARS epidemic that killed 774 people, mostly in Asia, and slowed the global economy. "There was much more economic disruption caused by these measures than there was public health benefit."

Hartl said WHO is advising countries to provide sick people with treatments such as Tamiflu, and make sure national plans are in place to ease the impact of a larger outbreak.

A timeline of events in the swine flu outbreak

Amid flu fears, USDA says pork is safe to eat

Fear of swine flu is a good reason to wash your hands, but not to take pork off the menu.

Federal health officials say the virus that has triggered fears of a flu pandemic is not transmitted by food, and that all food-borne germs are killed when pork is cooked to the recommended internal temperature of 160 F.

There also is no evidence so far that American pigs are infected with the virus, or that people can become infected by touching uncooked pork, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.

Swine flu can be spread the same way seasonal viruses are, mainly through sneezing, coughing and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, as well as through contact with infected pigs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When cooking pork, internal temperature is a better indicator than color to determine whether the meat is safely cooked. Cooked pork sometimes will still be pink at the center depending on cooking method and other ingredients.

Thomas Griffiths, an associate dean at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., says smaller cuts of pork, such as chops or medallions, should be cooked until they hit 160 F.

But large cuts, such as a loin, can be removed from the heat at about 152 F or 153 F, then allowed to rest. Larger cuts of all meats continue cooking off the heat and will reach 160 F.

Hotel workers wearing gloves as a precaution against swine flu carry a cart loaded with foods to a sealed-off hotel where Mexican travelers are being held under quarantine in Beijing, China, Monday, May 4, 2009. China on Monday denied discriminating against Mexicans in its fight against swine flu after the Latin American country complained that more than 70 Mexican travelers have been quarantined even though some are apparently not at risk for the virus. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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What is Swine Influenza?

Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.

What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?

The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?

No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

How does swine flu spread?

Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with flu viruses from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

How can human infections with swine influenza be diagnosed?

To diagnose swine influenza A infection, a respiratory specimen would generally need to be collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness (when an infected person is most likely to be shedding virus). However, some persons, especially children, may shed virus for 10 days or longer. Identification as a swine flu influenza A virus requires sending the specimen to CDC for laboratory testing.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/key_facts.htm