Richard Besser, M.D., Acting Director, CDC

CDC: Avoid Non-Essential Travel to Mexico

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing a travel advisory this afternoon that recommends Americans avoid non-essential travel to Mexico. CDC's acting director, Dr. Richard Besser, also said yellow cards listing swine flu prevention and infection guidance will be handed to entrants at U.S. ports of entry. "From what we know today, I think it's premature to put travel restrictions on anybody coming to the United States," he added.

Briefing reporters today at 1 p.m. Eastern time, Besser said 40 cases of infection with this swine flu strain have been identified in the United States. That is twice the number reported Sunday, but Besser stressed the additional cases are all from the same school in New York City where eight students with the flu already had been identified. No new cases have been found outside the five U.S. states already known: California, Texas, Kansas, Ohio, and New York. Eleven million courses of antiviral medication are being distributed to states by the federal government, Besser said.

Responding to a question, he said a possible loss of public health expertise due to states' current budget shortfalls is a concern. This swine flu outbreak was identified by the public health network built for that purpose, he pointed out. "That infrastructure, that ability, is one of the backbones that we count on as one of the ways to control outbreaks," Besser said. Thanking the public health and medical provider communities, he sad, "People are doing an oustanding job across the country."

Besser said CDC and other health authorities, including the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, are working aggressively on this case to protect public health, but no decision has been made to attempt to develop a vaccine for this flu strain. The median age of confirmed swine flu patients in this country is 16, their age range is 7 to 54, and there still has been only one hospitalization thus far, but CDC expects to see additional U.S. cases and more serious illnesses, he said. Why the disease has been much more serious in Mexico than in the United States thus far is still not known, he said.

Besser said authorities should have answers to that and many other questions about the disease in one to two weeks.

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