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Swine flu might be leveling off

May 06, 2009

Excerpts from a press briefing on Monday, May 4, by Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

"While we're not out of the woods, we are seeing a lot of encouraging signs, and I want to share with you some of that information.

"It appears things are leveling off in Mexico. They are reporting less activity in Mexico City. But as we're seeing here, they're seeing different things in different parts of the country.

"I like to ... put this in context with seasonal flu. With seasonal flu, we see in the United States over 30 million cases (annually). We see 200,000 hospitalizations and, on average, 36,000 deaths.

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"We continue to see (swine flu) spread widely across the United States. There are 286 confirmed cases in 36 states. That's an increase of six states from (Sunday, May 3). And we're seeing over 700 probable cases in a total of 44 states. ... A probable case is someone who has the flu-like symptoms and is tested with regular flu testing and comes up negative, so there's no (regular flu) strains.

"This likely represents an underestimation of the total number of cases taking place across the country. In order to be counted, you have to have ... flu-like symptoms and see your doctor and be tested. And we know that for a lot of people, those steps do not take place. And because this is flu, the situation will change rapidly.

"The median age of confirmed cases is 16 years with (an age) range of 3 months to 81 years. There are 35 known hospitalizations in the United States with ... one reported death (in Texas); 62 percent of the confirmed cases are under 18 years of age.

"There have been questions each day about World Health Organization and what phase we're in. ... What they're looking for is are they seeing sustained human-to-human transmission (in) more than one World Health Organization region. So, they see this in ... Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, and they're looking to see, is that something in any other region? So far, they haven't seen that. ... We anticipate at some point it will, given that flu viruses spread easily from person to person.

"... Here are some things that we're thinking about and things that are important. One is what happens in the Southern Hemisphere. We have the flu season here (during) our winter ... (and) in the Southern Hemisphere, they have flu season in their winter. So, we'll be (watching) very closely (to see) what happens to this virus over the next few months as flu season begins in the Southern Hemisphere. That will tell us a lot about whether the virus is ... becoming more severe and what measures we might want to take in the fall."

For updated information, go to the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/general_info.htm

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