01 May 2009
from New York Times by DENISE GRADY and ALAN COWELL
In the United States, the government continued to roll out the plans it had made to deal with a nationwide outbreak. Until now, states have had to send samples to the C.D.C. in Atlanta to be tested for the new flu strain. But this week, the C.D.C. began sending materials to the states so that they could do their own tests and get results more quickly.
But as health officials kept working in emergency mode, a few infectious disease experts quietly suggested that fears related to the outbreak were overblown.
Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the death of a 23-month-old Mexican child in Texas did not mean that the outbreak was extraordinarily dangerous.
“Every year we see between 75 and 150 children die of flu, most of whom were previously healthy,” Dr. Offit said.
Recent improvements to the nation’s flu surveillance system led officials to notice the swine flu outbreak, he said, when just a few years ago it would have been lost among the sea of routine sicknesses.
Dr. John Treanor, a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and an infectious-disease expert, said swine flu would probably be only slightly more dangerous than the usual seasonal flu.
“It won’t be severe, although there will be some deaths,” Dr. Treanor said. Because seasonal flu causes about 36,000 deaths a year in the United States, some deaths should not be surprising, he said.