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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

WHO raises global swine flu alert level

The swine flu epidemic entered a dangerous new phase Monday as the death toll climbed in Mexico and the number of suspected cases there and in the United States nearly doubled. The World Health Organization raised its alert level but stopped short of declaring a global emergency.
The United States advised Americans against most travel to Mexico and ordered stepped up border checks in neighboring states. The European Union health commissioner advised Europeans to avoid nonessential travel both to Mexico and parts of the United States.
Three cases of the swine flu, now called North American Influenza, have been confirmed in Guadalupe County, Texas. No related deaths have been reported in the U.S., and no confirmed or suspicious cases exist Texas A&M’s area, said Dr. Martha Dannenbaum, director of Student Health Services.
Symptoms include sudden fever, body aches, coughing and unexplained fatigue. Students with any of these symptoms or who have been around others who are ill are encouraged to schedule an appointment or walk-in at Beutel Health Center between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
North American Influenza is spread by close exposure to ill people, such as being coughed on, sneezed on or touched. The Center for Disease Control is developing a vaccine for the virus, which should be included in the new flu shot this fall. The 2008 flu shot did not contain a vaccine against North American Influenza. The disease does respond to antiviral prescription drugs commonly administered to flu patients such as Tamiflu and Relenza.
The virus poses a potentially grave new threat to the U.S. economy, which was showing tentative early signs of a recovery. A widespread outbreak could batter tourism, food and transportation industries, deepening the recession in the U.S. and possibly worldwide.
The suspected number of deaths rose to 149 in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with nearly 2,000 people believed to be infected.
The number of U.S. cases doubled to 42, the result of further testing at a New York City school, although none was fatal. Other U.S. cases have been reported in Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. Worldwide there were 73 cases, including six in Canada, one in Spain and two in Scotland.
While the total cases were still measured in hundreds, not thousands, Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said the epidemic was entering an extremely dangerous phase, with the number of people infected mushrooming even as authorities desperately ramped up defenses.
“We are in the most critical moment of the epidemic. The number of cases will keep rising, so we have to reinforce preventative measures,” Cordova said at a news conference.
The WHO raised the alert level to Phase 4, meaning there is sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus causing outbreaks in at least one country.
Its alert system was revised after bird flu in Asia began to spread in 2004, and Monday was the first time it was raised above Phase 3.
“At this time, containment is not a feasible option,” as the virus has already spread to several other countries, said WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda.
Putting an alert at Phases 4 or 5 signals that the virus is becoming increasingly adept at spreading among humans. That move could lead governments to set trade, travel and other restrictions aimed at limiting its spread.
Phase 6 is for a full-blown pandemic, characterized by outbreaks in at least two regions of the world.
It could take 4-6 months before the first batch of vaccines are available to fight the virus, WHO officials said.
Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid global fears of a pandemic, an epidemic spread over a large area, either a region or worldwide.
President Barack Obama said the outbreak was reason for concern, but not yet “a cause for alarm.”
Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that so far the virus in the United States seems less severe than in Mexico. Only one person has been hospitalized in the U.S.
“I wouldn’t be overly reassured by that,” Besser told reporters at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, raising the possibility of more severe cases in the United States.
“We are taking it seriously and acting aggressively,” Besser said. “Until the outbreak has progressed, you really don’t know what it’s going to do.”
U.S. customs officials began checking people entering U.S. territory. Millions of doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile were on their way to states, with priority given to the five already affected and to border states. Federal agencies were conferring with state and international governments.
“We want to make sure that we have equipment where it needs to be, people where they need to be and, most important, information shared at all levels,” said Janet Napolitano, head of the Homeland Security Department.
“We are proceeding as if we are preparatory to a full pandemic,” Napolitano said.

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