SWINE FLU BREAKING NEWS 2: New case count, attack rate, patients' travel history, public awareness, product scams, treatment insurance

May 1, 2009 — Update #2

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 365 cases of swine influenza H1N1 in 11 countries as of 7 pm. GMT (1 p.m. US ET) today, up from 331 cases reported earlier in the day. The case numbers by country are United States, 141 (1 death); Mexico, 156 (9 deaths), Canada, 34; Spain, 13; United Kingdom, 8; New Zealand, 3; Germany, 3; Israel, 2; and 1 each in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and China (Hong Kong). [WHO update 8]

Preliminary data from cases in the United States show a swine flu virus attack rate in the 25% to 30% range, which is consistent with seasonal influenza, Anne Schuchat, MD, interim deputy director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) science and public health program, said at a media briefing today. The attack rate is the proportion of people exposed to a pathogen who actually get sick.

None of 44 students with confirmed swine flu cases at a New York high school reported recent travel to California, Texas, or Mexico, according to an MMWR Dispatch from the CDC. However, hundreds of students who responded to an online survey after the school closed said they had a flu-like illness, and several of them reported they had traveled to Mexico in the week before Apr 20.

An opinion poll from the Harvard School of Public Health revealed today that about 77% of Americans are paying somewhat or very close attention to flu outbreak news and that 59% are washing their hands or using hand sanitizer more often. Only 13% of respondents to the telephone survey said they have avoided eating pork products. CDC officials at a news briefing today said they were heartened by the findings.

Federal officials today warned the public about swine flu product scams and said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will identify, investigate, and prosecute people or businesses that fraudulently promote unapproved or unauthorized products in an attempt to profit from the nation's public health emergency.

Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington, DC, today applauded Sen Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep Lois Capp, D-Calif., for introducing House and Senate bills that would guarantee emergency treatment for people affected by a major public health disaster. The Public Health Emergency Response Act would cover every American who seeks medical treatment during a pandemic, hurricane, terrorist attack, or other emergency.

Though they are both H1N1 viruses, the novel swine flu does not appear to share any of the genetic markers for virulence that the 1918 pandemic flu virus possessed, Dr. Nancy Cox, director of the CDC's influenza division, said in a briefing today, adding that much about the 1918 virus is still not under stood. [CDC briefing transcript]

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