First American Swine Flu Patient Dies

swine texas

An unidentified Texas woman has become the first known American swine flu patient to die, possibly from the disease.

However, state and local health department officials said the woman, who lived in the town of Harlingen near the Mexico border, also had recently given birth, was severely overweight, had gallstones, and had recently contracted pneumonia.

Last week, the state of Texas listed the woman as critically ill.

She was a teacher in a nearby school district, but there are currently no concerns that she might have passed the virus to students since she has not been in school for quite some time, health officials said. They also said it was unclear whether the woman had recently traveled to Mexico.

The death comes on the same day that health officials announced that schools no longer need to shut their doors to curb the spread of swine flu.

VIDEO: CDC urges schools to re-open

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teleconference that the CDC guidance on school closures has changed in light of "a more mild version of the disease than what originally appeared" in the United States so far.

Dr. Richard Besser, acting director fo the CDC, said that the guidance was changed in light of the serious disruptions associated with school closures.

"For very severe pandemic, the potential benefits of school closures outweigh the risk," Besser said. "But when we get to situations approaching that of seasonal flu, then the downside of school closures outweigh the potential benefit.

"If we felt that there was a benefit there, then we would be continuing to recommend school closures."

VIDEO: China Bans Pork Products

Sebelius noted, however, that the change also puts more of a burden on parents and teachers to act responsibly if a child is ill.

"It makes it even more important that parents and teachers and others pay attention to sickness as it breaks out," Sebelius said. "This is not an indication that we know enough yet about the course that this disease will take."

Meanwhile, even though the swine flu outbreak in Mexico is waning and the country is preparing to reopen schools and businesses this week, international health officials have still not ruled out the chance of a new surge in swine flu cases.

And infectious disease experts said that it is too early to say that we are out of the woods when it comes to the disease.

Dr. Gregory Poland, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said that it is "way too early to 'pull back' yet in our level of concern.

"Always expect the unexpected from influenza," Poland added.

"While there are some signs that are reassuring, less severity, decrease cases in Mexico, et cetera, I believe we are not out of the woods yet," agreed Dr. Christopher Ohl, associate professor of medicine in the section on infectious diseases at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "I am concerned this virus is with us for a while. It could change, become more virulent, have an increased secondary transmission rate ... in the future."

The virus, according to the World Health Organization, has now killed 27 people and sickened 1,490 in 21 countries.

And the scene is much different in other parts of the world that were hit later during the course of the outbreak.

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