Public Health

Latest News: U.S. Cases At 50; Israel, New Zealand Added To List

Good morning. As Flu Shots launches, here's a quick look at some of the latest news and headlines:

— NPR.org — Number of cases in U.S. stands at 50: "The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States has increased from 20 to 50, according to numbers released by state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty of the additional U.S. cases are from further testing related to a known outbreak in a prep school in the New York City borough of Queens. Some students at the school made a spring break trip to Mexico and may have become infected with the virus there."

— The Associated Press — New Zealand and Israel confirm cases: "New Zealand's health minister and an Israeli hospital are reporting the first confirmed cases of swine flu to hit the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions. New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall reports 11 cases. Those infected are members of group of students and teachers who returned recently from a trip to Mexico, where the virus is suspected in more than 150 deaths. The other case is in Netanya, an Israeli city north of Tel Aviv. Laniado Hospital's medical director says Health Ministry laboratory tests confirm swine flu in a 26-year-old patient who recently returned from Mexico."

— NBC-TV's Today show — Napolitano says U.S. is preparing as if a pandemic is possible: It "makes sense" for the U.S. to use passive surveillance at airports and other points of entry as officials try to keep the swine flu from spreading, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said this morning on NBC. Napolitano, the Associated Press writes, also said the Obama administration wouldn't wait for a World Health Organization declaration of a pandemic to deliver a pandemic-like response. "We anticipate that there will be confirmed cases in more states as we go through the coming days," she also acknowledged. And, referring to WHO's decision to raise its pandemic alert status to Level 4 of a 6-step process, Napolitano said that "we're prepared as if there were a pandemic. We're not waiting" for the world organization to make such a declaration.

— Reuters — Markets slump: "Global (financial) markets tumbled for a second day on Tuesday on fears the outbreak could snuff out fragile signs of economic recovery." (Follow the numbers.)

Morning Edition — Outbreak highlights HHS vacancies: "In the midst of what international health officials fear could be the start of a flu pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is still without most of its top political leaders." Michael Leavitt, President Bush's last HHS secretary, says the fact that outgoing Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius still hasn't been confirmed by the Senate (a vote is expected today) is a serious problem. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the federal response "is in no way hindered or hampered by not having a permanent secretary at HHS right now. ... There are professional staff over there as we speak, helping to coordinate this."

The New York Times — Borders being tightened: "Countries around the world began tightening their border and immigration controls today as the number of confirmed cases of swine flu continued to rise. The number of deaths believed attributable to swine flu climbed to as many as 152 — all of them in Mexico — as news agencies reported the number of confirmed cases of infection in the United States stood at 50 after further testing at a New York City school."

— USA TODAY — Travel industry may get hammered: "For an ailing global travel industry, swine flu couldn't have erupted at a worse time. 'It has the potential to paralyze travel,' says Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, which represents all segments of the U.S. travel and tourism industry. 'Certainly if it gets out of hand,' it will be catastrophic."

— CNN.com — Is Twitter "propagating fear"? "The swine flu outbreak is spawning debate about how people get information during health emergencies — especially at a time when news sources are becoming less centralized. Some observers say Twitter — a micro-blogging site where users post 140-character messages — has become a hotbed of unnecessary hype and misinformation about the outbreak. ... 'This is a good example of why (Twitter is) headed in that wrong direction, because it's just propagating fear amongst people as opposed to seeking actual solutions or key information,' said Brennon Slattery, a contributing writer for PC World.

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