Swine Flu Cases in Kansas, Possibly NYC

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a statement on Saturday that more than 100 students at St. Francis Prepatory School in Queens have reported flu-like symptoms including headaches, upset stomachs and dizziness. The Health Department subsequently encouraged all of the affected students to get tested for the flu, and there are now eight probable cases of swine flu.

Currently, the CDC is performing additional tests to determine whether swine flu indeed is the culprit, according to the statement.

"Most of the patients reported mild symptoms. No child was hospitalized or seriously ill," the statement read. "The CDC results should be available by Sunday. If the results are positive -- the Health Department will recommend that the school close on Monday."

Concern over the outbreaks have reached the highest levels of the federal government, as well.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the president has been briefed and is "being kept up-to-date" in the swine flu situation.

The Homeland Security Council, under the leadership of terrorism czar John Brennan, is heading up the administration's efforts to handle the situation and is working with the CDC, the State Department and the Mexican government.

"The president will continue to get updated on what's going on, as will Brennan ... and others in the government, as the situation develops," Gibbs said.

A Delay in Action?

Another question that remains is whether health agencies reacted quickly enough to the initial reports of swine infections in Mexico, first reported in mid-March.

"I think that the laboratory testing capabilities for this type of virus were not fully in place and this accounts for some of the delay," said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, dean of the Graduate Program in Public Health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. "They were not routinely testing for this type of influenza virus."

Still, other infectious disease experts said that there should have been quicker action.

"I concur that the 'one-month lag' between case identification and reporting was too long," said Ed Hsu, associate professor of Public Health Informatics at the University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences and School of Public Health. "[It is a] good thing that the CDC now decides to have a daily briefing on the swine flu, but it will still need to bring the transparency of reporting in other high-risk countries up to speed on this."

And despite the actions by the World Health Organization with regard to the swine flu outbreaks, no decision has yet been made to increase the pandemic threat level from its current status of phase 3 to phase 4 on the six-point scale. A virus isn't considered to be pandemic until it reaches phase 6.

WHO did announce, however, that it has sent a team of experts to Mexico to further study the outbreaks.

Still Too Early to Worry?

Despite the action being taken by national and international health organizations, some infectious disease experts say it is far too early to fear the worst -- a global flu pandemic.

"The current swine flu only marginally meets only one of three of pandemic tests: effective person-to-person transmission," Hsu said, adding that the other tests -- susceptibility and no natural immunity or vaccine -- remain to be satisfied.

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