A quickly developing swine influenza outbreak has health officials in the United States and Mexico searching for answers. It was reported Friday that a swine flu virus that has infected eight people in the United States matches a virus that has killed 60 people in Mexico.
Despite the name, there is no danger of contracting the virus from eating pork products; nor is there any risk associated with live swine. (See NPB Advises Producers to Protect Herds.) The exposure is occurring from human to human, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC first reported Tuesday that two children in the San Diego area were infected with a virus termed swine influenza A H1N1, whose combination of genes had not been seen before in flu viruses in humans or in pigs. The cases were discovered through a Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Program, according to the CDC officials. "It is exactly what that program is designed to do," they add.
In all, eight cases have been reported in the United States, between Texas and Southern California. but all of the people have fully recovered, reports the CDC. Of the 14 Mexican samples that the CDC tested, seven were identical to the swine flu virus found in the United States.
"This is something we are worried about,” says Richard Besser, CDC's acting director. "This situation has been developing quickly." However, CBS news reports is that the CDC is activating teams and "are on top of the issue."
Nearly 1,000 people have become ill in Mexico City in a short period of time. Schools and universities in Mexico City were closed Friday and many public functions cancelled. Mexican President Felipe Calderon met with his Cabinet on Thursday night to discuss the outbreak. Mexican health officials report that their cases are stabilizing.
The influenza virus evolves rapidly and has the ability to quickly create new strains. The new virus has genes from North American swine and avian influenza; human influenza; and swine influenza normally found in Asia and Europe, said Nancy Cox, chief of the CDC's Influenza Division. The majority of cases are occurring in adults between 25 and 44 years of age.
The human influenza vaccine's ability to protect against the new swine flu strain is unknown, and studies are ongoing. CBS's medical advisor reported that currently available flu treatments appear to be "affective in treating these cases" and, while people should be aware of and report flu-like symptoms, there is "no need to panic."