HEALTH

CDC advises American travelers to delay, avoid trips to Mexico

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on Monday advised American travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico.

As of Monday, Mexico has reported 18 laboratory confirmed human cases of swine influenza A/H1N1 infection. Investigation is continuing to clarify the spread and severity of the disease in Mexico. Suspect clinical cases have been reported in 19 of the country’s 32 states. The World Health Organization, the Global Alert and Response Network and CDC have sent experts to Mexico to work with health authorities. CDC has confirmed that seven of 14 respiratory specimens sent to CDC by the Mexican National Influenza Center are positive for swine influenza virus and are similar to the swine influenza viruses recently identified in the United States.

On April 25, the WHO Director-General declared this event a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under the rules of the International Health Regulations. CDC and state public and animal health authorities are currently investigating 20 cases of swine flu in humans in California, Texas, Kansas, Ohio and New York City. Some of the U.S. cases have been linked to travel to Mexico.

At this time, only two of the 20 cases in the U.S. have been hospitalized and all have recovered, but deaths are reported to have occurred in Mexico. CDC is concerned that continued travel by U.S. travelers to Mexico presents a serious risk for further outbreaks of swine flu in the United States.

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Obama administration mobilizes flu meds, declares public health emergency

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Obama administration mobilized government stockpiles of flu medicines Sunday afternoon, declaring a public health emergency, following an update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in the morning that confirmed 20 U.S. cases of swine flu to date.

“President [Barack] Obama is very concerned about the recent cases of swine flu that have been identified in the United States, as well as the outbreak in Mexico,” stated John Brennan, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, during a special press conference Sunday afternoon. “At this point a top priority is to ensure that communication is robust and that medical surveillance efforts are fully activated. This will enable both the rapid identification and broad notification of any new cases that may occur in the U.S., as well as in Mexico.”

A public health emergency was declared by the Department of Health and Human Services as a way to free up federal, state, and local agencies and their resources for prevention and mitigation. “It allows us to use medication and diagnostic tests that we might not otherwise be able to use, particularly on very young children; and it releases funds for the acquisition of additional antivirals,” Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, told reporters Sunday.

The government currently has approximately50 million treatment courses of antiviral drugs — Tamiflu and Relenza — in the strategic national stockpile, Napolitano said. “We are releasing 25% of those courses, making them available to all of the states, but particularly prioritizing the states where we already have confirmed incidents of the flu. In addition, the Department of Defense has procured and strategically prepositioned 7 million treatment courses of Tamiflu.”

The government expects the number of swine-flu related cases to grow from the initial 20 identified so far.

“As we look for cases of swine flu, we are seeing more cases of swine flu,” stated Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC. “We expect to see more cases of swine flu.”

In New York City, where there’s been a cluster of swine-flu related disease in a school, that school has been closed for Monday, Besser reported.

“There’s a similar situation in Texas,” he said. “If there are other communities where we saw cases in a school, we would be recommending that they take those actions as well.”

Besser noted that the swine flu outbreak in the United States has been relatively mild — of the 20 cases identified, 19 have recovered and only one person has been hospitalized.

“What we know about this virus is it looks to be the same virus as is causing the situation in Mexico. And given the reports out of Mexico, I would expect that over time we’re going to see more severe disease in this country,” Besser cautioned.

As part of its response, CDC is already moving forward on the possible development of a vaccine.

“We’ve created that seed stock, we’ve identified that virus, and discussions are underway so that should we decide to work on manufacturing a vaccine, we can work towards that goal very quickly,” Besser said.

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Study shows drinking diet soda may inhibit calcium stones

BY Michael Johnsen

LINTHICUM, Md. Patients with stone disease could benefit from drinking diet soda, according to new research from the University of California, San Francisco.

The research suggests that the citrate and malate content in commonly consumed sodas may be sufficient to inhibit the development of calcium stones.

Increased alkalinity is proven to augment citraturia, a known factor for calcium stones. Malate increases the amount of alkali delivered. Researchers measured the citrate and malate content of 15 popular diet sodas. The researchers found that Diet Sunkist Orange contained the greatest amount of total alkali and Diet 7-Up had the greatest amount of citrate as alkali.

“This study by no means suggests that patients with recurrent kidney stones should trade in their water bottles for soda cans,” stated Anthony Smith, spokesman for the American Urological Association. “However, this study suggests instead that patients with stone disease who do not drink soda may benefit from moderate consumption.”

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