Confirmed swine flu cases leapConfirmed swine flu cases leap

Confirmed swine flu cases leap

GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) — Confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide increased to 257 on Thursday, up significantly from the previous day’s total of 147, the World Health Organization reported.
Mask-wearing people buy coffee and doughnuts Thursday morning in Mexico City, Mexico.

Mask-wearing people buy coffee and doughnuts Thursday morning in Mexico City, Mexico.
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In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has confirmed 109 cases of swine flu, or 2009 H1N1, in 11 states, an increase of 18 from its previous total.

The death toll climbed again Thursday, with Mexican officials announcing that the number of confirmed deaths from the virus in that country had increased to 12. There has been one death in the United States.

More than 150 deaths in Mexico are suspected to have been caused by swine flu and are being investigated, officials there said.

Mexico, with 97 confirmed infections, showed the biggest increase in the world, WHO said. There were 26 confirmed cases there a day earlier.

The higher totals do not necessarily mean that incidence of the disease is increasing, but rather that health investigators are getting through their backlog of specimens, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of WHO.

The latest tally was announced one day after WHO raised the pandemic threat level to 5 on a six-step scale. WHO did not change the threat level Thursday.

“There is nothing epidemiologically that points to us today that we should be moving toward Phase 6,” Fukuda said. Video Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta demystify pandemics »

The level 5 designation means infection from the outbreak that originated in Mexico has been jumping from person-to-person with relative ease.
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“It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general. “We do not have all the answers right now, but we will get them.” Photo View images of responses in U.S. and worldwide »

In addition to Mexico and the United States, WHO said, the following countries have confirmed non-lethal cases: Austria (1), Canada (19), Germany (3), Israel (2), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (3), Spain (13), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (8).

An additional 230 cases are being investigated in the United Kingdom, and Spain has 84 suspected cases. See where cases have been confirmed »

On Thursday, Japan reported its first suspected case, which has not been verified by WHO.

In the United States, New York has the most confirmed cases, with 50, followed by Texas, with 26. California has 14 cases.

The CDC on Thursday added an 11th state, South Carolina, with 10 cases.

“There are many more states that have suspect cases, and we will be getting additional results over time,” said Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

By Monday, he said, all states will have additional antiviral drugs from the Strategic National Stockpile that can be given to people at high risk for flu. There hasn’t been a decision on whether to attempt making a vaccine specifically for H1N1, he said.

Swine flu is a contagious respiratory disease that affects pigs and can jump to humans. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Learn about swine flu »

But the 2009 H1N1 virus is a hybrid of swine, avian and human strains, and no vaccine has been developed for it.

The U.S. government has stockpiled 50 million courses of antiviral medication to treat swine flu, Department of Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano said Thursday. The states have another 23 million and the Department of Defense has millions more, she said.

Napolitano said some of those treatments, along with gloves, masks and other medical equipment, were being shipped to affected states on Thursday.

“More [will] continue to get distributed every day until we’re complete,” she said.

Nearly 300 U.S. schools with confirmed or possible H1N1 cases were closed Thursday, affecting about 169,000 students, the U.S. Department of Education reported. No colleges or universities were known to be closed, the agency said.

Napolitano said parents of children whose schools closed should keep them at home instead of taking them out in public.

“The entire purpose is to limit exposure,” she said. “If a school is closed, the guidance is and the request is to keep your young ones home.”

Reacting to comments earlier in the day by Vice President Joe Biden, who said he has advised his family to avoid “confined spaces” such as airplanes and subways, Besser said, “If you have a fever and flu-like symptoms, you should not be getting on an airplane. That is part of being a responsible part of our community. You don’t want to put people at risk.

“I think flying is safe, going on the subway is safe. People should go out and live their lives,” he said, but added, “There is shared responsibility when it comes to preventing infectious diseases, shared responsibility when it comes to fighting a new infection for which we have incomplete information.”Video Go behind the scenes at the CDC »

One death from swine flu was confirmed in the United States this week. A toddler from Mexico died at a Houston, Texas, hospital Monday.

Nowhere in the world is the crisis more severe than in Mexico, where the first cases were detected. All schools in the nation have been closed, and about 35,000 public venues in Mexico City were shut down or told to serve only take-out meals.

The Mexican government will close all nonessential government offices and businesses starting Friday. Video Watch how Mexican authorities are dealing with the outbreak »

Mexican President Felipe Calderon took to television late Wednesday night, saying the country has enough medicine to cure the sick.

“In times of difficulty, we’ve always come together,” he said. “Together we will overcome this disease.”

In the United States, President Obama called on schools with confirmed or possible swine flu cases to consider closing temporarily.

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