April 29, 2009 By Wayne Hanson
Dr. Margaret Chan, (pictured) the World Health Organization's director-general, today raised the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to 5, and said that all countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans.
It may not be called swine flu much longer, but rather Influenza A (swH1N1) which is its scientific moniker. No hogs have tested positive for the virus in the U.S. but nine countries have restricted or banned imports of U.S. pork, and the European Union is already calling it the "novel flu virus" to protect Europe's agricultural markets.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in a video announcement, said Texas had 16 confirmed cases and one death -- a Houston toddler. Perry also issued a statewide disaster declaration. Dr. David Lakey, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, took a low-key approach stressing hand-washing, avoiding open coughing, and said that if people are ill, they should stay home to avoid spreading the disease.
Many other states are taking preventative action, launching informative Web sites, and dusting off pandemic response plans. Maryland Gov. O'Malley, for example, opened the Maryland Swine Flu Command Center for statewide monitoring and response, even though the state as yet has no confirmed cases, and many other states are likewise putting information and vaccines in place should the need arise.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg talked about the city's preparations as well as the status of the 45 confirmed cases at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows.