May 3, 2009 (San Diego)—Health authorities have traced origins of the H1N1 swine flu outbreak to a 10-year old son of a military family in San Diego, UPI reports today. The Centers for Disease Control conducted tests on samples from the boy, revealing the never-before-seen strain of flu virus on April 15, though his brother had symptoms two weeks earlier. Today, the County Health & Human Services Agency confirms four new cases of the flu, bringing the total of cases locally to 15, with several more suspected. The four new cases are a 3-year-old female, a 17-year-old male, a 35-year-old female and a 33-year-old male. The latter two are cases previously confirmed by the military.
The media age of patients with the H1N1 flu is 17, younger than in past flu outbreaks. Three schools in the county have closed temporarily to prevent spread of the disease: San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts in Paradise Hills, Kearny High School in Kearny Mesa and Mission Hills High School in San Marcos. Over 475 schools have closed across the U .S., though only 176 cases have been confirmed in this country. But world health authorities believe the strain is milder than initially feared. In the U.S. thus far, the illness has been blamed for one death, a toddler from a wealthy Mexican family who died in a Texas hospital.
Several cases have now been confirmed in Mexicali, a border town south of Imperial County. To date, none have been found in Tijuana, though thousands have been sickened in Mexico City and over 150 have died.
“I went to Tijuana on Monday and very few people there were wearing masks…It’s just important to be informed but there is no panic among day laborers. They know who to call if anything happens,” said Enrique Morones of San Diego, who traveled to Tijuana last week. “I just pray the information gets out.” Morones denounced some radio stations for airing “racist things”, adding, “Unfortunately, the right wing is attacking, saying it’s Mexico fault.”
In fact, Wired.com reports: Scientists have traced the genetic lineage of the new H1N1 swine flu to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory farms, where it spread and mutated at an alarming rate. Experts warned then that a pocket of the virus would someday evolve to infect humans, perhaps setting off a global pandemic. The new findings challenge recent protests by pork industry leaders and U.S., Mexican and United Nations agriculture officials that industrial farms shouldn’t be implicated in the new swine flu, which has killed up to 176 people and on Thursday was declared an imminent pandemic by the World Health Organization.
The article quotes Bob Martin, former executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Animal Farm Production, who maintains that “industrial farms are super-incubators for viruses.”
The World Health Organization has renamed the virus H1N1 in deference to pork producers, after Egypt ordered slaughter of pigs and Russia banned import of Mexican and U.S. pork. Health authorities insist that the illness cannot be contracted by eating pork.
Locally, health authorities have declined to provide details on communities where the flu victims reside or where they work, though some patients have voluntarily spoken with media to provide those details.
Asked why more information has not been provided to the public, County Health & Human Services spokesman Tom Christensen replied, “Both the CDC and our Public Health Officer have verified that the virus is circulating within our communities and pinpointing where specific cases live does not provide any benefit. Where people live in this outbreak is not relevant since people move around all the time – working, shopping, school events, etc. so where they live is not particularly important as far as potential exposure to the virus.” He added, “ The only time that varies is if it affects a particular school and the need is there to notify others in a close setting. Even then, where the student lives is not revealed, only the school they attend. We also operate under strict confidentiality laws.” Frequent hand-washing is advised to prevent transmission of the disease. If you have flu-like symptoms, health authorities ask that you remain home, or seek medical help if you have trouble breathing or other severe symptoms.
For more information, call the County’s 211 non-emergency line or visit the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.