On Saturday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared an emergency in Mexico in the wake of the country’s swine flu outbreak. The emergency declaration gives Calderon the “powers to order quarantines and suspend public events.”
Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the W.H.O., said on Saturday that the deadly swine flu virus outbreak in Mexico (and the U.S.) constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The W.H.O. convened an emergency meeting of experts on Saturday, but the panel adjourned without raising the global pandemic alert level, saying it wanted more information. Some experts expressed surprise that no action was taken since the Mexico outbreak seems to meet the definition of a Level 4 alert — sustained human-to-human transmission of a new virus. The alert has been at Level 3 for years because of small clusters of human cases of avian flu.
In the United States, so far, at least 11 swine flu cases have been confirmed. Seven were confirmed in San Diego and Imperial Counties in California and two in Kansas. In Texas, two 16-year-old students at Byron Steele High School in Cibolo, near San Antonio, were confirmed to have swine flu, and one of their classmates was suspected to have the virus. There have been no deaths, and officials said most of the 11 seemed to be recovering.
Officials said they expect to find many more cases as they begin testing for them.
The outbreak is being treated with a sense of urgency:
Teams of disease investigators have been sent to California and Texas to trace how the malady has spread, and the U.S. offered to send scientists to Mexico, said the CDC’s Besser. U.S. hospitals are being asked to collect samples from patients with flu-like symptoms, said Schaffner, chief of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt, in a telephone interview yesterday. […]
Mexico’s government has closed schools, museums, movie theaters and libraries in Mexico City and surrounding areas until further notice, according to an e-mail from the National Arts and Culture Council. It’s also handing out free facemasks and extending the deadline for filing taxes until May 31, Cordova said. A million doses of antiviral medicine are available for distribution, he said.