1. The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert to 5, its second-highest level Wednesday, indicating the outbreak of swine flu that originated in Mexico is nearing widespread human infection. Dr. Margaret Chan, the U.N. agency’s director-general, said the decision means that all countries should “immediately” activate pandemic preparedness plans.
2. SCHOOLS: Schools in 14 states have shut their doors on more than 160000 children as the nation's swine flu crisis enters its second week
3. CHICAGO: The University of Chicago Medical Center says two of its employees have probable cases of swine flu.
4. MEXICO: Mexico's president told citizens on Wednesday to stay home for a five-day partial shutdown of the economy, after the World Health Organization raised its alert level and said a swine flu pandemic was imminent. Mexico is taking the drastic step after another 17 deaths were potentially linked to swine flu, bringing the total to as many as 176.
USA: At least 10 other states from Rhode Island to Nevada and the Carolinas to Illinois are examining either possible or "probable" cases of swine flu in their states.
MAINE: State officials in Maine said laboratory tests had confirmed three cases in that state, not yet included in the CDC count.
USMC: The Pentagon said a Marine at the Twentynine Palms base in California had been confirmed to be ill with swine flu and was isolated, along with his roommate.
VACCINE: Laboratory testing showed the new virus was treatable by the anti-flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, and the first shipments from a federal stockpile arrived Wednesday in New York City and several other locations. The government was shipping to states enough medication to treat 11 million people as a precaution. All states should get their share by May 3.
5. MARYLAND: The Associated Press reports: Maryland officials said the state has its first probable cases of swine flu, including two among public school students. Tests are being performed on samples from six people, with results expected Thursday. Gov. Martin O’Malley said none of the six have had to be hospitalized and all are recovering.
6. COMMENTARY: The common cold kills 36,000 Americans a year, averaging out to about 150 deaths per day during the eight months of the flu season. So far, the only casualty of the current crisis outside of Mexico has been a young Mexican boy visiting Texas.
7. GEORGIA: Health officials have confirmed the first case of swine flu in Georgia. The head of Georgia’s Division of Public Health said Thursday a 30-year-old woman from Kentucky who had traveled to LaGrange in west Georgia had fallen ill. She had been in Cancun, Mexico earlier this month.