Officials Confirm Second U.S. Swine Flu Death

By William Branigin and Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 5, 2009; 4:35 PM

Health authorities today reported a second death in the United States from swine flu -- a woman in south Texas -- even as the federal government rescinded its recommendation that schools shut down if they have any suspected cases of the virus.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced this afternoon that a woman from Cameron County, the southernmost county in the state, died earlier this week after contracting swine flu. It said she had "chronic underlying health conditions" but did not elaborate or provide any other details on the woman.

The department said the fatality was "the first death of a Texas resident with H1N1 flu." A toddler from Mexico, who also had underlying health problems, died from the illness last week in a Houston hospital. He is listed as the first fatality in the United States from the current swine flu outbreak.

Earlier, the government reported that the number of confirmed swine flu cases across the nation now exceeds 400 in 38 states, and officials repeated warnings that the illness -- while no more severe than seasonal influenza so far -- is likely to spread over the days and weeks ahead.

But federal officials said they are no longer recommending that schools close for about two weeks if they have any suspected cases of swine flu. Instead, they said, parents should simply keep sick children at home, and those with flu-like symptoms should stay home for a week.

In its latest bulletin on the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta said this morning that 403 laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 flu have been reported, up sharply from the 286 tallied 24 hours earlier. The bulletin added two more states to the list of those with confirmed cases: Georgia and Maine, each with one infected person. The largest confirmed swine flu caseloads, according to the CDC, are in New York (90 cases), Illinois (82), California (49), Texas (41), Delaware (20), Arizona (17), South Carolina (16) and Oregon (15). The other affected states all have cases in the single digits.

The Texas Health Department, however, lists 61 confirmed swine flu cases, including that of the Mexican boy who died last week. It says cases have been found in 16 of the state's 254 counties. Cameron County, where the latest fatality was recorded, is bordered on the east by the Gulf of Mexico and to the south by the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Its county seat is Brownsville.

"The ongoing outbreak of novel influenza A (H1N1) continues to expand in the United States and internationally," the CDC said on its Web site this morning. "CDC expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur over the coming days and weeks."

Acting CDC Director Richard E. Besser said that when "probable" swine flu cases in the United States are added to the confirmed ones, the total today reaches at least 1,105. He said the virus likely will show up in all 50 states within the next few days.

So far, Besser said, 35 swine flu patients in the United States have been hospitalized.

According to the World Health Organization, 1,490 confirmed swine flu cases have now been reported in 21 countries, resulting in a total of 30 deaths. It said Mexico has reported 822 confirmed cases, including 29 deaths. No deaths from the virus have occurred in countries other than Mexico and the United States, WHO said.

Of the other nations with swine flu cases, Canada tops the list with 140, followed by Spain with 57 and Britain with 27, according to the WHO figures. The agency says places with confirmed cases in the single digits include Austria, Hong Kong, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, France Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Korea and Switzerland.

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