Number of US Swine Flu Cases Climbs to 286 in 36 states

But health officials cautiously optimistic that the outbreak may be leveling off
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- The confirmed number of swine flu cases in the United States swelled to 245 in 35 states by May 3, but federal health officials are expressing cautious optimism that the disease may be leveling off and may not be as dangerous as initially feared. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the number of confirmed national cases to 286 in 36 states as of late this morning.

The increase in confirmed cases represented a clearing of a backlog of lab tests, not a surge in new infections, health officials report. The United States has had one death and 30 hospitalizations from swine flu, now officially designated H1N1 flu. Around the world, 20 countries have reported a combined total of 985 confirmed cases. Neighboring Mexico heads the list with 590 confirmed cases of infection and 25 deaths.

Even if the current outbreak peters out, health officials warn that the never-before-seen virus -- a genetic mix of pig, bird and human flu strains -- could return to the United States in the fall when the regular flu season begins. In the meantime, health officials will be watching what happens in the southern hemisphere where flu season is about to begin.

"I do think we do see some encouraging signs, but we are remaining cautious," said Anne Schuchat, M.D., of the CDC in Atlanta, during a recent teleconference. "We have a novel infectious disease -- a new H1N1 virus -- and it's too soon for us to know exactly how this is going to evolve or play out. We can't predict with certainty what the weeks and months ahead will look like. I don't think we are out of the woods yet."

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