U.S. declares public health emergency as 20 swine flu cases confirmed

By Calvin Palmer

The United States declared a public health emergency today as the number of reported cases of swine flu reached 20.

Cases have been reported in California, Ohio, Kansas, Texas and New York. Patients have ranged in age from nine to over 50.  Two cases have been hospitalized but all recovered or are recovering.

Canada today said four people have fallen ill with swine flu in Nova Scotia.

Health officials are at a loss to explain why the cases in the United States have been mild, unlike in Mexico where the same strain has killed 22 people and is suspected in the deaths of 64 others.

Tests today confirmed that eight students from St Francis Preparatory School, a private Catholic school in New York City, had contracted the disease during a trip to Mexico two weeks ago.

In Ohio, state health officials said a nine-year-old boy who recently traveled to Mexico on vacation with his family has a confirmed case of swine flu and is recovering at his home.

Officials do not know if the boy has the same strain linked to the deaths in Mexico, health department spokesman Robert Jennings said.

Kansas health officials said yesterday that they had confirmed swine flu in a married couple living in the central part of the state after the husband visited Mexico. The Dickinson County couple were not hospitalized, and the state described their illnesses as mild.

“Fortunately, the man and woman understand the gravity of the situation and are very willing to isolate themselves,” said Dr Jason Eberhart-Phillips, the state health officer.

At least nine swine flu cases have been reported in California and Texas. The most recent California case, the state’s seventh, was a 35-year-old woman from Imperial County who got sick in early April. She had no known contact with the others.

Health officials are concerned because people appear to have no immunity to the virus, a combination of bird, swine and human influenzas. The virus also presents itself like other forms of swine flu, but none of the U.S. cases appear to involve direct contact with pigs, Eberhart-Phillips said.

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph, Associated Press and AFP.]

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