Officials reported 20 U.S. cases of swine flu in five states so far, with the latest in Ohio and New York. Unlike in Mexico where the same strain appears to be killing dozens of people, cases in the United States have been mild — and U.S. health authorities cannot yet explain why.
"As we continue to look for cases, we are going to see a broader spectrum of disease," predicted Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We're going to see more severe disease in this country."
At a White House news conference, Besser and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sought to assure Americans that health officials are taking all appropriate steps to minimize the impact of the outbreak.
Top among those is declaring the public health emergency. As part of that, Napolitano said roughly 12 million doses of the drug Tamiflu will be moved from a federal stockpile to places where states can quickly get their share if they decide they need it. Priority will be given to the five states with known cases so far: California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Kansas.
Napolitano called the emergency declaration standard operating procedure — one was declared recently for the presidential inauguration and for Midwest flooding. She urged people to think of it as a "declaration of emergency preparedness."
"Really that's what we're doing right now. We're preparing in an environment where we really don't know ultimately what the size of seriousness of this outbreak is going to be."
Swine flu case confirmed in Ohio
The Ohio Department of Health says a 9-year-old boy who recently traveled to Mexico on vacation with his family has a confirmed case of swine flu.
Health department spokesman Robert Jennings said Sunday the boy is recovering at his home in Elyria, in northern Ohio's Lorain County. The child's name was not released.
Jennings says the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the case, but officials do not know if the child has the same deadly strain of swine flu that has killed up to 81 people in Mexico.
Jennings says the boy displayed typical symptoms of the flu, including a sore throat and body aches. Jennings says the child returned from Mexico within the past two weeks.
Jennings says the boy's relatives are being tested for the disease, but they currently do not have any symptoms.