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Swine Flu: Spreading, But Not a Death Sentence

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With the first confirmed hospitalization for the new wave of swine flu in Imperial County, and with Mexico seen as the epicenter of the spread, Southern California is the unfortunate focus of this latest pandemic scare.

The helpful folk at L.A. Metblogs have summed up a great set of information and links for concerned locals, including to the Centers for Disease Control and a google map of confirmed and suspected cases.

In local news coverage, the Daily News tells us standard flu vaccines probably won't help. The Los Angeles Times tells us of 40 confirmed swine flu cases in the U.S. as of this morning. The Times also supplies a primer on swine flu symptoms and prevention.

The San Diego Union Tribune also has good reporting on both the Mexico and California angles:

As of last night, officials had confirmed 20 cases in California - including three in Imperial County - Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas. None of the patients died, and most recovered quickly.

Yesterday, epidemiologists also detected swine flu for the first time in Canada and confirmed more patients in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with more than 1,600 possible infections and 103 deaths potentially linked to the disease...The federal government hasn't banned travel to Mexico, but it's asking travelers to follow preventive measures normally recommended for the common flu season...

Worry about swine flu prompted the closure of several schools for today in New York City, San Antonio and suburban Sacramento, where a sick seventh-grader was being tested for the disease.

No such action is being taken in San Diego County, where three youngsters have contracted the illness. As they did last week, county health officials refused yesterday to identify the local high school, elementary school and day care center where these patients attend classes. Wooten said there was no need to take broader precautions because all of the youngsters have fully recovered from the flu and no other students at their schools have become ill. ["Swine flu leads U.S. to declare emergency," San Diego Union-Tribune]

How scared should we be? It's worth remembering other fizzled pandemic scares of recent years, like 2002-03's SARS panic, and 2005's avian flu panic. And note from the above reporting about schools and Mexico's death rate (fewer than one in 10 who caught the flu) that cases are still very rare, it does not spread instantly to everyone near an infected person, and the flu is by no means a death sentence even for those unlucky enough to contract it.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Quiplash! It was used under user Creative Commons license.