WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama voiced hope Friday that
the swine flu virus will run its course "like ordinary flus" as
officials reported more than two dozen new cases and scores more
schools shut down.
The government issued new guidance for schools with confirmed
cases, saying they should close for at least 14 days because
children can be contagious for seven to 10 days from when they get
sick. That means parents can expect to have children at home for
longer than previously thought.
The Education Department said that more than 400 schools had closed, affecting about 245,000 children in 18 states. That was
about 100 more schools reported closed than reported on Thursday.
Major U.S. airlines, meanwhile, announced plans to curtail
flights into flu-ravaged Mexico.
"I'm optimistic that we're going to be able to manage this
effectively," Obama told reporters as he received an update from
his Cabinet on the federal response to the health emergency. At the
same time, he emphasized that the federal government is preparing
as if the worst is still to come so that it won't be caught
Obama's fresh take on the flu scare - more intense in
neighboring Mexico than in the United States but also present in
some measure around the globe - came as the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention reported the virus has been confirmed in
eight more U.S. states and seems to be spreading.
Confirmed cases have risen from 109 Thursday to 161 Friday, the
CDC said, with the flu now reported in 23 states, up from 11.
Separately, a few states reported slightly higher numbers, and the
District of Columbia announced its first two probable cases. The
U.S. death toll remained at one - the Mexican toddler who visited
Texas with his family and died there.
The most recent onset of illness was Tuesday, CDC said,
indicating a continuing spread, though no faster than the rate of
the regular winter flu.
"We think the cases do continue to occur," said CDC's Dr. Anne
Schuchat. But CDC also said the new swine flu virus lacks genes
that made the 1918 pandemic strain so deadly.
Obama said it wasn't clear whether the flu would be more severe
than others before it, and he said the swine flu is a cause for
special concern because it is a new strain and people have not
developed an immunity to it.
Government agencies are preparing in case the flu comes back in
a more virulent form during the traditional flu season, the
president said, talking of an overarching effort to help schools
and businesses while also responding to pleas for help from other
While emphasizing at a press conference that the closures to
date represent a tiny fraction of the almost 100,000 schools in the
country, Education Secretary Arne Duncan instructed teachers,
parents and students to be prepared if their school does close.
To teachers, Duncan said: "Think about reworking upcoming
lesson plans so students can do their schoolwork at home if
To parents: "Learn about what they're learning at school. Keep
them on task."
And to students: "Don't fall behind your peers at other schools
that are still in session. Keep working hard."
Many travelers have become increasingly concerned about going to
Mexico, though authorities there said new cases were leveling off.
The Mexico City mayor said Friday that no new flu deaths were
reported overnight for the first time since the emergency was
declared a week ago. Mexico has confirmed more than 300 swine flu
cases and has 16 confirmed deaths, although reports have indicated
that roughly 120 may have died from it.
U.S. travelers have been advised to avoid nonessential travel to
Mexico. Continental Airlines Inc., the biggest U.S. carrier to
Mexico, said Friday it would halve the number of seats it sells to
fly there. Delta Air Lines Inc. and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines
also announced plans for reduced flights to Mexico, while smaller
carriers were following suit.
Mormon church officials canceled church services in Mexico City
until further notice and said they were delaying sending new
missionaries to that country.
The energy secretary aide who apparently got sick helping
arrange Obama's recent trip to Mexico told The Associated Press
when reached at his office Friday that he was feeling better.
The aide, Marc Griswold, a former Secret Service agent who was
doing advance work for Energy Secretary Steven Chu, declined to
elaborate beyond comments in The Washington Post.
"We're not the Typhoid Mary family, for goodness sake," he
told the Post in a story published Friday. "We've been told that
we're not contagious. We're already past the seven-day mark for
The White House has said Griswold did not fly on Air Force One
and never posed a risk to the president.
Though most U.S. cases have been relatively mild and have not
required a doctor's visit, U.S. precautions include shipping
millions of doses of anti-flu drugs to states in case they're
needed, replenishing the U.S. strategic stockpile with millions
more treatment courses, and shipping 400,000 treatment courses to
The CDC added the following states to its list of those with
confirmed cases: New Jersey with five cases, Delaware with four,
Illinois with three, Colorado and Virginia with two, and Minnesota,
Nebraska and Kentucky each with one.
CDC previously had confirmed cases in New York, Texas,
California, South Carolina, Kansas, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio,
Arizona, Michigan and Nevada.