May 5, 2009 -- The U.S. recorded its second U.S. swine-flu death and the
first of an American -- a Texas woman living near the Mexico border -- soon
after the CDC said schools shouldn't close when students come down with H1N1
swine flu -- and schools closed because
of swine flu may reopen.
The CDC has repeatedly predicted that the U.S. would see more H1N1 swine flu
deaths and hospitalization. Yet the CDC's official guidance for schools
reflects a cautious easing of concern over the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.
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• Initial alarm over swine
flu deaths among healthy young people in Mexico has waned as investigation has
turned up large numbers of relatively mild flu cases in Mexico.
• The H1N1 swine flu has
been relatively mild in the U.S. -- about as severe as seasonal flu.
• Virus experts find that
the current H1N1 swine flu lacks the virulence factors linked to severe illness
in previous flu pandemics.
The Texas woman, from Cameron County in the extreme southern tip of the
state, was in her 30s, Doug McBride, press officer for the Texas Department of
State Health Services, tells WebMD. She had underlying health conditions that
put her at high risk of flu complications.
ABC News reports that the woman lived in Harlingen, Texas, near the Mexico
border. ABC reported the severely overweight woman, a schoolteacher, had
recently given birth and had recently had pneumonia.
Schools Allowed to Reopen
The school-guidance announcement came earlier in the day from Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose first official trip outside
Washington D.C. was made to the CDC's Atlanta headquarters.
"The new guidance will recommend schools cease closing with recognized cases
if H1N1 flu," Sebelius said at a news conference. "We hope this will alleviate
some of the burdens on parents and workers. But keeping children safe and sound
took the top priority until we knew more about this disease."
The change means more responsibility for parents, who now are asked to check
their kids for signs of illness before sending them off to school. If their
kids seem ill, parents are asked to keep them home for seven days -- even if
they feel better in the meantime.
"And parents, don't turn around and send that child to the mall. This is
about keeping children home until the virus can't be spread any further,"
Teachers, too will have more responsibility. They're asked to be on the
lookout for kids with signs of illness and to send home any child who shows
signs of the flu.
Ironically, the continued spread of H1N1 flu is one reason behind the softer
CDC advice. If school outbreaks were the nexus of flu spread in the community,
it might make sense to close them. But Richard Besser, MD, acting CDC director,
said that school-related cases simply reflect H1N1 flu cases already in the