The CDC is concerned with what will happen as this new virus moves into the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is about to start. The agency is also preparing for the virus' likely return in the fall to the Northern Hemisphere, Schuchat said.
As of Tuesday, there were slightly more than 3,000 confirmed cases in 45 states and the District of Columbia, with three confirmed deaths and 116 people hospitalized. All three patients who have died in the United States had underlying health problems before their infection with the flu.
Testing has found that the swine flu virus remains susceptible to two common antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, according to the CDC.
Schuchat said Monday that the confirmed cases were likely just the tip of the iceberg. Many people who become ill don't seek medical attention and are never tested for this strain of flu. "The numbers we are reporting are a minority of the actual infections that are occurring in the country," she said.
Reporting Monday in the journal Science, researchers from the World Health Organization said the swine flu epidemic has pandemic potential and is likely to be comparable to other 20th century pandemics -- at least in terms of its spread.
The report also suggested that the true number of -- largely unreported -- swine flu infections in Mexico, the outbreak's epicenter, possibly had already reached 32,000 by the end of April. The World Health Organization's official tally for Mexico stood Tuesday at 2,059 confirmed human infections, including 56 deaths.
The United States has now surpassed Mexico -- believed to be the source of the outbreak -- as the country most affected by the epidemic, according to World Health Organization statistics. As of Tuesday, the agency was reporting 5,251 confirmed cases of swine flu in 30 cou
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