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CDC Looking Nationwide for More Swine Flu

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today that it has not found any new cases of swine flu in the country other than the eight identified earlier. As of yesterday evening, Mexico reported it had 1004 suspected cases and 68 deaths (20 of which had been confirmed).

At a press conference this afternoon, CDC officials emphasized that questions far outnumbered answers and that the situation remained fluid. “These are very dynamic times, and many things will be changing,” said Anne Schuchat, interim deputy director for science and public health. CDC is coordinating a nationwide effort by state and local public health departments to find new cases, she said.  “Now that we’re looking more widely, I expect us to find more throughout the country.” CDC now also has a team in Mexico assisting health officials there.

At the moment, CDC has one of the few labs that can test for the new virus and has confirmed all the U.S. cases, as well as seven samples from Mexico. But the World Health Organization today posted the DNA sequence of the virus, as well as information for diagnostic laboratories. CDC says it has developed an improved polymerase chain reaction assay to detect the virus and will soon send it out to a network of 140 laboratories that work with the agency. “If there’s any appearance that things are not available to people, it’s mainly because it’s a new virus. We are making the reagents for it, and it’s just a matter of time for us to get them out,” said Daniel Jernigan, a medical epidemiologist in the influenza division. Jernigan says CDC anticipates that those reagents will be available “very soon.”

Meanwhile, New York City is looking into possible swine flu cases, and the WHO has decided not to raise its pandemic threat level, although it did call the situation a "public health emergency of international concern."