Pandemic 'Imminent': WHO Raises Swine Flu Pandemic Alert Level to 5

"This is obviously a serious situation," said President Obama of the developments today. He further urged local health departments to watch for new cases -- and for schools to "strongly consider" closing their doors if the virus is suspected or detected among students or staff.

Schools Close Around Country

The first U.S. swine flu fatality and 16 confirmed swine flu cases in Texas have sent shockwaves through local communities. Schools closed their doors as a precaution, keeping nearly 53,000 students in Texas home today.

"This is nothing to panic over, but there are precautions we need to follow to prevent the spread of this illness," Cleburne Mayor Ted Reynolds said.

Every high school sporting event and most extracurricular activities throughout the state have been postponed until the middle of May as a result of the outbreak.

"I'd rather be inconvenienced than have these kids sick and contaminating everybody," said Jane Stone Pritzkaw, parent from New Branufels, Texas, where there is one confirmed case in the district.

Schools across the country -- from Connecticut to San Francisco -- followed suit. In Chicago, officials closed a school on the city's North Side after a "probable" swine flu infection was reported Tuesday. Blood samples are being sent to the CDC for analysis. If confirmed, Illinois would become the 12th state to report an outbreak.

Germany and Austria today became the latest countries to confirm swine flu infections.

The Egyptian government has begun slaughtering all 300,000 pigs in the country, according to local reports. No swine flu cases have yet been confirmed on the country, though its neighbor Israel has reported two. And EU foreign relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Reuters during a Gulf Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Muscat on Wednesday that the bloc was considering halting all travel to Mexico and disinfecting all airports due to the outbreak.

Governments around the world are struggling to contain the disease, but no one is ready yet to call the outbreak a full fledged pandemic.

"It's a very serious possibility, but it is still too early to say that this is inevitable," the World Health Organization flu chief, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, told reporters today.

Nine countries have officially reported 148 cases of swine influenza, According to WHO.

Swine Flu Death Reinforces CDC's Prior Warnings

The death comes as public fears over swine flu continue to grow. Before this fatality, health officials confirmed Tuesday that five patients in the United States have been hospitalized with swine flu; all have recovered.

And last night, a flight from Baltimore to Mexico was, for a time, suspected of carrying a passenger with swine flu. The airport had prepared to quarantine the plane before authorities said the concern was unwarranted.

Both the Obama administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been warning for days that American deaths should be expected from swine flu.

"I think what the American people need to be confident of is that President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta are being very aggressive in tackling the problem," Valerie Jarrett, senior White House adviser, told "Good Morning America" today.

"We were unfortunately expecting that there would be deaths, but we're working really hard to educate the American people so that we take reasonable precautions."

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