Monday, May 4, 2009

Mexico Says H1N1 Outbreak on Decline

Mexico's Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the swine flu epidemic in his country "is now in its declining phase," even as the U.S. and five other countries in Europe and Latin America reported new cases Sunday. But WHO and CDC officials suggest that this is a premature declaration, and that there is still much to learn about the virus and how transmission is occurring.

The death toll in Mexico was changed late Sunday night to 22, while the tally of infected cases had increased to 568 from 506.

"[Cordova] said data suggest the epidemic peaked sometime between April 23 and April 28, and that drastic measures — closing the nation's schools, shuttering most of its businesses and banning mass public gatherings — apparently have helped curb the flu's spread." He also said that antivirals wre effective against the flu, and that paried with the public's use of facemasks and hand-washing had limited the spread of the virus.

"But he warned the assessment was preliminary and that it was important 'not to lower one's guard.' Nevertheless, the prospect of the national flu emergency ending soon was viewed with relief across Mexico."

"Scientists warn that the virus could mutate into a deadlier form." And that this could be simply the first, mild wave of an evolving virus.

"'Influenza is unpredictable,' said Dr. Tim Uyeki, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who has worked on SARS and H5N1 bird flu outbreaks. 'There are so many unanswered questions. This is a brand new virus. There's so much we don't know about the human infectious with this virus.'"

"Right now, one of the biggest hurdles is a lack of information from Mexico. A team of international and Mexican virus sleuths is trying to piece together an epidemiological picture of who's dying and where transmission began, while also uncovering just how it's attacking people with severe illness. But details are emerging slowly."

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