Responding to media questions about the swine flu epidemic, Dr. Mark Horton, the director of the California Department of Public Health, made several statements at a just-concluded teleconference. Shortly before Horton's Q&A, CDPH deputy

director Dr. Gil Chavez announced that as of this afternoon California

is reporting 57 cases of swine flu — 16 confirmed and 41 probable,

with eight hospitalizations.

Dr. Mark Horton

However, when it was later pointed out

that Contra Costa County does not appear on the CDPH's list of affected

counties, even though one Contra Costa school has closed because three

students are suspected of having the virus, Horton said he “could only

speculate” as to the information discrepancy. New figures will be

forthcoming later in the day, Horton said.

  • His department does not now recommend that social gatherings be limited or canceled, although people who are currently ill or who suffer from respiratory ailments such as asthma or emphysema should definitely avoid them.

  • However, because

    “children are particularly efficient spreaders of disease,”

    Dr. Horton said the CDPH recommends schools be shut down for at least one week whenever a child is suspected or confirmed as having swine flu.

  • The federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is conducting “passive surveillance” at the Mexican border and at airports, meaning that travelers who appear ill are taken aside and questioned about their conditions and where they've been during the past few days.

  • The relatively low number (109) of national confirmed cases, along with the seemingly mild nature of the flue itself, does not mean the swine flu epidemic is all “hype.” In fact, Horton said, the 109 figure is too small to draw any kind of conclusion about the outbreak of an unpredictable “novel virus” that has not infected people before.

  • The CDPH recommends subjecting every patient complaining of symptoms to a swine flu test.

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