April 27, 2009 -- Swine flu shows no signs of slowing down, with twice as many confirmed cases in the U.S. today as there were yesterday. And two more countries -- Canada and Spain -- have reported their first confirmed swine flu cases.
There are 40 lab-confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S., up from 20 cases yesterday. The new cases are in New York City at the same parochial school -- St. Francis Preparatory in Queens -- that has already had confirmed cases.
It's not that more students are getting sick -- in fact, most of the students are improving, New York City health officials said today. Instead, the increase in cases reflects the fact that lab tests have been completed on students who already had symptoms. Seventeen more students at the same school have "probable" swine flu; samples from those students have been sent to the CDC for confirmation.
No other clusters of swine flu have been confirmed in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today at a news conference.
At a separate news conference, CDC Acting Director Richard Besser, MD, today said the CDC will recommend avoiding "nonessential" travel to Mexico because of swine flu. Later today, the CDC will issue guidelines for people who have to go to Mexico.
And at a news conference in Geneva this morning, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Gregory Hartl announced that there are 26 lab-confirmed cases in Mexico, six in Canada, and one in Spain. Hartl notes that swine flu has been mild everywhere except Mexico and that the reasons for that aren't clear. Although there have been many more cases of illness reported in Mexico, the WHO figure refers only to cases that have been verified as swine flu.
The World Health Organization is meeting right now to discuss whether to raise its pandemic alert level, which is currently at phase 3.
The WHO has a scale ranging from phase 1 (low risk of a flu pandemic) to phase 6 (a full-blown pandemic is under way). The phase 4 level indicates person-to-person transmission in a limited geographical area; phase 5 indicates that a virus is present in several places.
Asked what it would mean if the WHO raises the pandemic alert level, Besser said, "It doesn't really matter, from our perspective, what you call this. ... We are acting aggressively," and that heightening the WHO pandemic alert level "may have more relevance for a country that has yet to see cases."
(This is a breaking news story. WebMD will be updating coverage throughout the day.)