U.S. suffers first swine flu death, as Mexico reawakens

Articles
May 06, 2009

U.S. suffers first swine flu death, as Mexico reawakens

A female schoolteacher, age 33, from Harlingen, Texas, became the first American to die after contracting swine flu. But the cause and effect isn’t so clear: She was severely overweight, had pneumonia, had recently given birth, and had been hospitalized since April 14 before succumbing to her illnesses this week, according to combined reports from The New York Times and ABC News. In stark contrast, Mexico has suffered nearly 30 deaths so far. But the national Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo was the most celebrated casualty of the H1N1 flu outbreak. The Mexico government urged no festivities yesterday. Yet citizens of this populous nation would gladly take that deal if it guaranteed a swift return to business as usual with no further health risk. No one knows for sure what will happen around the globe, since pandemics can start out mild and grow severe over months. But once Mexico lowered its national alert level on Monday, Mexico City, thought to be near the epicenter, finally exhaled and some activities and commerce returned. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates “more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak over the coming days and weeks…and has already deployed 25% of supplies and medicines in the Strategic National Stockpile to all states in the continental U.S. to respond to the outbreak.” The latest tally on its website yesterday showed New York at 90 cases, Illinois at 82, California at 49, Texas at 41, Delaware at 20, Arizona at 17, South Carolina at 16, Oregon at 15, and 30 other states in single digits, for a total of 403 confirmed cases.

A female schoolteacher, age 33, from Harlingen, Texas, became the first American to die after contracting swine flu. But the cause and effect isn’t so clear: She was severely overweight, had pneumonia, had recently given birth, and had been hospitalized since April 14 before succumbing to her illnesses this week, according to combined reports from The New York Times and ABC News.  

In stark contrast, Mexico has suffered nearly 30 deaths so far. But the national Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo was the most celebrated casualty of the H1N1 flu outbreak. The Mexico government urged no festivities yesterday. Yet citizens of this populous nation would gladly take that deal if it guaranteed a swift return to business as usual with no further health risk.

No one knows for sure what will happen around the globe, since pandemics can start out mild and grow severe over months. But once Mexico lowered its national alert level on Monday, Mexico City, thought to be near the epicenter, finally exhaled and some activities and commerce returned.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates “more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak over the coming days and weeks…and has already deployed 25% of supplies and medicines in the Strategic National Stockpile to all states in the continental U.S. to respond to the outbreak.” The latest tally on its website yesterday showed New York at 90 cases, Illinois at 82, California at 49, Texas at 41, Delaware at 20, Arizona at 17, South Carolina at 16, Oregon at 15, and 30 other states in single digits, for a total of 403 confirmed cases.

While U.S. health officials are rethinking their previous advice to close schools because the disease has already spread so far, they and other experts urge vigilance because the disease is new, its course remains uncertain, and people have limited immunity. “This situation can evolve,” said Dr. Keijl Fukuda, the deputy director general at the World Health Organization, as reported by The New York Times. “If it stays mild and people stay healthy, that’s great. But if it does turn severe, this is something that we have to jump on.”

Just the fear of the swine flu has been enough to prompt some irrational acts. Egypt began a government-ordered slaughter of the nation’s 300,000 pigs, despite the country having not a single confirmed case of the illness, which isn’t spread by pigs, reported the Huffington Post. The move is reminiscent of Egypt’s murder of 25 million birds during its 2006 battle with bird flu.

By contrast, the U.S. government and manufacturers have begun the process of developing a vaccine against the novel H1N1 flu virus. And CDC’s daily guidance includes good-sense advice such as: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and snzeeze, then throw it away. Wash hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Stay home if you get sick and limit contact with others. Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing.

Chicken soup is optional, but many moms would say, “It couldn’t hurt.”