Saturday, May 2, 2009 | 10:13 a.m.
A federal health official said today that cases of the new influenza A H1N1 virus continue to grow in the United States, but results for five tests sent from Nevada were not reported.
"I will not be surprised if we find more severe cases or more deaths," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, interim deputy director for the Science and Public Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Five tests from Nevada included two cases from Southern Nevada and three from northern Nevada sent to the CDC in Atlanta.
The total number of confirmed cases reported today is 160 in 21 states with 13 people hospitalized, Schuchat said. The total includes one confirmed case a a 2-year-old girl in Reno and the death of a 23-month-old boy in Texas who was visiting from Mexico.
The states with the highest number of cases are New York with 50 confirmed cases, Texas with 28 and California with 24 cases.
Schuchat reminded the public that every year flu viruses kill 36,000 people in the United States and account for 200,000 patients in hospitals.
Only one-third of the United States flu cases have ties to Mexico, Schuchat said. The majority of the cases confirmed so far appear to spread the contagious virus through close contact in places such as schools and daycare centers.
"We don't know as much as we would like to know about it," Schuchat said, referring to the unusual strain with bird, swine and human viruses combined.
The CDC did update its guidance for communities across the country who decide to close schools due to the newest flu virus. Instead of seven to 10 days, the CDC now recommends closing schools for up to 14 days. Schuchat explained that from scientific studies it appears that young children carry and shed flu viruses longer than adults.
The decision to upgrade its guidelines for school closures came after federal scientists noticed a pattern among flu cases, most of them occurring in people 20 years old or younger, she said.
By Sunday the CDC will have distributed stockpiled flu supplies to all 50 states, Schuchat said.
People across the nation are taking precautions that include frequent handwashing lasting 20 seconds or more, Schuchat said. The CDC also recommends that people who feel ill stay at home, she said. Those who are ill and showing symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat should not travel on airplanes or buses, she said. "If you're healthy, then it's OK to be out and about," she said.