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Swine Flu Cases Still Up, But U.S. Officials Are Guardedly Optimistic
Date:5/4/2009

The CDC also points to encouraging signs in Mexico, thought to be the outbreak's source

MONDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States climbed Monday to 286 in 36 states. But, the revised numbers indicate catching up on a backlog of lab tests, and not a sudden rise in new infections, federal health officials said.

And, while insisting that "we are not out of the woods," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during an afternoon teleconference that "we are seeing a lot of encouraging signs."

Among the encouraging signs: "So far the severity of illness we are seeing in this country is very similar to what we see with seasonal flu," Besser said. "And that's encouraging information."

In addition, some of the initial lab tests are heartening, Besser said. "The lack of some of the factors that have been associated with more severe disease in previous pandemics, we are not seeing those."

Testing for the virus is also becoming faster, Besser said. "We have distributed test kits to every state and this will allow for more rapid diagnosis at the state level," he said.

And, he added, "The situation in Mexico is encouraging. It appears that things are leveling off in Mexico."

On Monday in Mexico -- believed to be the source of the swine flu outbreak -- officials declared the epidemic to be waning. They scaled back their flu alert, saying they would allow cafes, museums and libraries to reopen this week after a five-day shutdown of nonessential businesses. Inspections of schools must be finished before students can return to class, the Associated Press reported.

Officials from the World Health Organization said it was premature for countries to ease up on efforts to control the outbreak, but added that there were no imminent plans to raise the pandemic alert level.

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