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Experts Say Panic Over Swine Flu Is Premature
Date:4/28/2009

Transmission, death rate much lower than SARS, and true severity of outbreak still unknown

TUESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- As the death toll from swine flu in Mexico rises and new cases appear in the United States and elsewhere, it's easy to get caught up in a sense of mounting dread.

But experts in influenza and infectious disease say the exact level of danger from the virus is still far from certain.

"This is something of concern [but] I think we should hold back on calling it a real threat," said David Topham, co-director of the New York Influenza Center of Excellence, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center. "We always have to take these things seriously, but we have a very good system in place to respond."

Another expert agreed.

"The gravity of the situation will not be clear for a few more days till we find the extent of the cases and the number of countries involved and explain why we haven't had any deaths in the U.S," said Dr. Scott R. Lillibridge, a professor with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health in Houston and executive director of the university's National Center for Emergency Medical Preparedness and Response.

The real verdict on just how dangerous this outbreak might be will hinge at least partly on seeing how the disease spreads in the United States, along with expected announcements from the World Health Organization as to how many other countries are affected, the experts said.

So, as can happen in these situations, "the panic is a little bit undue," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "There are many facts that we don't know."

Looming large among the unknowns: Why is the virus causing more severe illness in Mexico than in the United States? Why have the only deaths reported been in Mexico? Why is mortality concentrated among young, healthy adults? Will
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