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The state department today issued a warning advising for all Americans to avoid all "

by Michael Webster Syndicated Investigative Repo Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2009 at 2:41 PM
mvwsr@aol.com 949 494-7121

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States is as many as 40 and rising. United States cases spanned New York, Kansas, California, Texas and Ohio. Many of those who contracted the illness had recently visited Mexico.

Michael Webster: Syndicated Investigative Reporter. April 17, 2009 at 9:30 AM PST.

Bulletin: Mexico struck by 5.8 earthquake. More to follow.

The state department today issued a warning advising for all Americans to avoid all "non-essential" travel to Mexico out of concern for the swine flu outbreak. The United States today also launched border and airport screening for swine flu exposure.

In Lebanon yesterday Clinton said the government is taking the outbreak "very seriously," though President Obama said the emerging cases are not a cause for alarm.

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States is as many as 40 and rising. United States cases spanned New York, Kansas, California, Texas and Ohio. Many of those who contracted the illness had recently visited Mexico.

All of those sickened in the United States have recovered or are recovering -- a stark difference from the outbreak in Mexico that authorities cannot yet explain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today, saying it is "very concerned" about the disease's spreading and is expected to decide within hours whether to raise its pandemic alert level from three to four.

Obama said the government is "closely monitoring" emerging cases of the strain, but called the government's decision to declare a health emergency a "precautionary tool." "This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert," Obama said. "But it's not a cause for alarm."

The European Union today issued an alert advising Europeans against non-essential travel to the United States and Mexico. China, Russia and Taiwan moved yesterday to quarantine visitors amid a surging global concern about a possible pandemic.

The AP reported that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also canceled a trip to Prague, where she had planned to meet with some of her European counterparts, so she could prepare and respond to the swine flu outbreak. Napolitano sent her deputy to Prague in her place.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are looking to call Napolitano to testify at a hearing on the outbreak, one Democratic official said, predicting the hearing would be held Wednesday.

The U.S. declared a national health emergency Sunday in the midst of confusion about whether new numbers really meant ongoing infections -- or just that health officials had missed something simmering for weeks or months. But the move allowed the government to ship roughly 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile to states in case they eventually need them.

In that same report Richard Vesser, acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, revealed that U.S. authorities were starting to undertake "passive screening" at its borders. He restated the Obama administration's call of Sunday for people to stay calm and reported that U.S. border officials would be "asking people about fever and illness, looking for people who are ill."

Complicating response strategies internationally was what a World Health Organization official described as difficulty experts were having in assessing precisely the nature of the threat.
"These are the early days. It's quite clear that there is a potential for this virus to become a pandemic and threaten globally," said Peter Cordingley, a WHO spokesman, who said it was spreading rapidly in Mexico and the southern United States. "But we honestly don't know. We don't know enough yet about how this virus operates. More work needs to be done."

The death total in Mexico now stands at 149 out of approximately 2000 cases and many more are suspected.
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