Several Severe Swine Flu Cases Surface in the United States

Jon is a staff writer for Science.

Five people with swine flu in the United States have been hospitalized, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today. Until now, only one patient in the United States was hospitalized, a 41-year-old woman who recovered.

CDC and health agencies in other countries have been baffled by the lack of severe disease of swine flu outside of Mexico, which now suspects the infection has led to the hospitalization of nearly 2000 people and more than 150 deaths. “As we continue to look for cases,” said CDC acting Director Richard Besser at a press conference, “we will be seeing a broader spectrum of disease. … I expect that we will see deaths in this country.”

Besser said three of the hospitalized patients are in California and two are in Texas, but he had no details about the individuals. CDC has now confirmed 64 cases, with 45 of those in New York.

CDC has investigators in Mexico helping to sort out why that outbreak has apparently caused so many more cases of severe disease. “At this point, we haven’t been able to rule in or out any hypotheses,” Besser said.

President Barack Obama today requested $1.5 billion from Congress to help combat the swine flu outbreak. That was news to Besser at the time of the press conference. “I hadn’t heard that,” he said, adding that it was not unusual to have supplemental funding requests during a public health emergency.

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