The World Health Organization is now reporting about 1,500 cases of swine flu in 22 countries, with Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom having the most cases outside of Mexico and the United States.
Last week, a 23-month-old boy from Mexico, who also had underlying health problems, died from the swine flu illness in a Houston hospital. He was the first fatality in the United States from the current swine flu outbreak.
On Tuesday, U.S. health officials said the outbreak of swine flu appears similar to the seasonal flu in its severity, so schools across the nation should remain open and any schools that did close should reopen.
This announcement marked a change from the previous guidance, which recommended that affected schools close for at least two weeks. Students who are sick with flu-like symptoms should stay home for at least a week, officials cautioned.
What health experts don't know is whether the never-before-seen virus will return, perhaps in a more dangerous form, when the regular flu season begins again late this year. Because the pathogen is a genetic mix of pig, bird and human flu strains, health officials are worried that humans may have no natural immunity to it.
As with the previously tested strains of the swine flu virus, new testing has found that the pathogen remains susceptible to the two common antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, according to the CDC.
And that has led to a boom in sales of the two drugs in the United States, the AP reported. Frightened by the prospects of the swine flu, Americans are snapping up the two antiviral medicines that treat the virus, whether they have it or not.
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