LONG BEACH - No cases of swine flu have been found in Washington state or Oregon, according to the latest updates from state health departments.
Gov. Chris Gregoire says more than 230,000 doses of anti-viral medication have been ordered for Washington as a precautionary measure.
Swine flu has been confirmed in two patients in British Columbia - just to the north of Washington. Six additional patients in B.C. awaited flu test results on Tuesday.
There are 64 confirmed cases in the U.S. as of Tuesday. The closest of these to the Pacific Northwest are 10 in Southern California. There also are two confirmed cases in Kansas, six in Texas, one in Ohio and 45 in New York City. No Americans have died from the swine flu and only one has required hospitalization.
This newly mutated strain appears to spread easily among humans and has generated intense concern among public health authorities, who declared a national public health emergency on Sunday. International officials on Monday raised the six-stage pandemic-alert level from its former three to four, meaning the virus is easily caught by humans but has not yet infected enough people to be considered a pandemic.
Hitting Mexico hardestIt is suspected the new strain of flu may have evolved in recent weeks in Veracruz, Mexico, a state of the Gulf of Mexico with many hog-raising facilities. Most fatalities have been in Mexico City - with 20 million people the most crowded metropolis in the Western Hemisphere. One hundred fifty-two people are confirmed dead from the new flu there and more than 2,000 have been infected, most of whom are recovering.
Authorities urge travelers to make no non-essential trips to Mexico until the crisis abates. As of Monday, swine flu was believed to be present in 19 of the nation's 32 states.
About 36,000 die from the ordinary flu each year in the U.S., but victims typically are either elderly or infants already made vulnerable by weakened immune systems or poor general health. In contrast, novel new flu strains that arise every few decades are sufficiently different from existing ones that no one has immunity. They can quickly kill young and healthy people whose own immune systems may over-react to the illness. These new flu strains often first evolve in pigs and poultry, and then make the leap to humans. (There is no need to avoid eating pork or chicken - the flu is not known to spread via cooked food.)
The last such pandemic flu developed in 1968, presumably in Hong Kong. Scientists who study the subject have been concerned for some time that the world is overdue for another outbreak. The 1968 pandemic flu killed 30,800 people in the U.S., making it a mild outbreak.
KING-TV reported Tuesday that the Washington state-based company Veratect was the first to sound the alarm about the new virus. It tracks potential global problems with violence and disease on behalf of corporate clients and noticed an uptick in Mexican flu at the end of March. They first notified the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on April 6 and sounded a second alarm on April 20.
"We literally got on the phone to the CDC and said to their emergency operations center, 'we see this happening, you really need to look at it,'" a Veratect company official told KING. "At that point they started looking at it."
CDC issues flu advisoryCDC issued the following statement Sunday:
"Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection and whether additional people have been infected with swine influenza viruses.
"CDC is working very closely with officials in states where human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) have been identified, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization. This includes deploying staff domestically and internationally to provide guidance and technical support. CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate this investigation.
"Laboratory testing has found the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir and has issued interim guidance for the use of these drugs to treat and prevent infection with swine influenza viruses. CDC also has prepared interim guidance on how to care for people who are sick and interim guidance on the use of facemasks in a community setting where spread of this swine flu virus has been detected. This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC will provide new information as it becomes available."
There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.
? Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
? Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
? Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
? Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
? Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
? If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.