U.S. Monitors Swine Flu Outbreak
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. And we begin this hour with the latest on the swine flu outbreak. Today, President Obama told a gathering of scientists in Washington that he's keeping up on cases as they emerge here in the U.S., but that he sees no cause for alarm. With more details, here's NPR's Joanne Silberner.
JOANNE SILBERNER: Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the U.S. count is now 40 officially confirmed cases in New York, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio, with only one hospitalization, and everyone's recovered. There is one thing that's certain, says acting CDC director, Richard Besser.
Dr. RICHARD BESSER (Acting Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): This situation is evolving very quickly. It's changing quickly. And so you will continue to hear information that seems in conflict. You'll see numbers in one place that may be different from another.
SILBERNER: Officials fully expect there will be more cases. But they don't know how many more or whether people in the U.S. will begin having more severe cases like ones seen in Mexico. That's got scientists really wondering, says Gregory Hartl of the World Health Organization.
Mr. GREGORY HARTL (World Health Organization): One of the pieces of the puzzle, which is a bit perplexing is the fact that in the United States and in Canada, we're seeing only mild cases, whereas in Mexico, there have been a few instances, at least, of such severe cases that have caused death.
SILBERNER: That's not been seen yet in New York City, which is 28 confirmed cases. Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at a press conference today.
Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): After contacting every intensive care unit in New York City each of the past three days, we don't have a single person with severe illness, and even possible or suspected flu. That indicates that so far, we are not seeing a situation comparable to that being reported in Mexico.
SILBERNER: But that very well could happen, says the CDC's Besser. At a teleconference today, he was asked if the new swine flu could be there in Atlanta.
Dr. BESSER: I don't know the odds that somebody in Atlanta has this infection. But it's important that people in Atlanta and people in Dallas and people Philadelphia and people in small towns know about this, that they pay attention, that they understand that they have a responsibility here in terms of protecting themselves, but also knowing what the signs are and what they should do if they're ill.
SILBERNER: People who have flu-like symptoms shouldn't go to work. Everyone should wash their hands often. Besser said if you're in an area where the disease is, it might not be the best idea to kiss people in greeting.
Dr. BESSER: We're not recommending an end of affection during this period.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Dr. BESSER: I think it's a period of time where we need a little more affection, but doing it in a way that isn't going to transmit a respiratory disease, would be a CDC approach.
SILBERNER: And the CDC says covering your coughs and sneezes remains the most effective way of preventing the spread of any kind of flu. Besser says while it's not time to panic, people should start planning.
Dr. BESSER: It's also time for people to be thinking about, well, what would I do if my child's school were closed? What would I do for child care? Would I be able to work from home? It's time to think about that, so that you're ready in the event that there were a case in your child's school.
SILBERNER: Finally, Besser said the government is releasing a new travel advisory for Mexico, suggesting that non-essential travel be avoided. Or if you do have to travel to Mexico, take the necessary sanitary precautions.
Joanne Silberner, NPR News, Washington.
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