SWINE FLU BREAKING NEWS: Global case count, US cases widespread, pigs infected, Mexico sees improvement, concern about hoarding

May 4, 2009

Twenty countries were reporting a total of 985 confirmed cases of influenza A/H1N1 (swine flu) as of early today, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. Mexico has reported 590 cases with 25 deaths. The WHO total includes yesterday's US report of 226 cases in 30 states, with one death. Other countries with more than 10 cases were Canada, 85; Spain, 40; and the United Kingdom, 15. [WHO statement]

The Centers for Disease Control reported 286 confirmed US cases in 36 states as of this morning. The total included 73 cases in New York, 41 in Texas, 30 in California, 20 in Delaware, and 17 in Arizona. At a briefing yesterday, the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat said the virus is widespread, meaning that "virtually all of the United States probably has this virus circulating now." She also said 30 patients, mainly older children and younger adults, had been hospitalized, and some of those cases were severe. [CDC swine flu page]

A swine herd in Alberta was found to be infected with the H1N1 virus, probably from a Canadian carpenter who works on the farm and had a flu-like illness when he returned from a visit to Mexico in mid-April, Canadian and US authorities reported on May 2. The carpenter has recovered and the pigs were recovering, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said. The farm has been quarantined. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said pork and pork products remain safe and the finding would not affect US trade with Canada. At a briefing yesterday, a WHO official said the virus in the swine does not appear to be different from the one in humans. [CFIA statement, USDA statement]

Mexico's flu epidemic has begun to decline, according to Health Minister Angel Cordova as quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) today. He said hospital admissions for flu-like illness were dropping and credited the public's use of face masks and handwashing for helping to limit the epidemic. But he said the assessment was preliminary and the country had to stay on guard. [AFP report]

The demand for oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) is running nine times normal for this time of year, Reuters reported recently, quoting SDI, a firm that provides healthcare analysis for the drug industry. But hoarding has not prevented supplies from reaching those who need them, and major distributors said they still had adequate amounts, the story said. [Reuters report]

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC urged the public not to hoard drugs and supplies for treating and preventing flu, so that supplies will remain for those most in need. In a statement today, the agencies said consumers may encounter spot shortages of antiviral drugs and masks. [FDA-CDC statement]

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