A new strain of swine flu has been confirmed in 18 deaths in Mexico, and is suspected as the cause of another 63 deaths (for a total of 81) and 1,324 illnesses. Yesterday, 5,289 people showed up at health centers in Mexico’s Federal District (which includes Mexico City) with respiratory symptoms.

CDC reports that 11 cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) have been confirmed in the US (7 in California, 2 in Texas, and 2 in Kansas). These cases have been mild. Additional potential cases have been reported in New York among students who recently visited Mexico.

Swine flu is fairly common, but it’s usually only transmitted from pigs to humans. This new strain appears to be capable of human-to-human transmission, and it’s also sickening young, otherwise-healthy adults.  This means the virus has the serious potential to cause a pandemic (see DemFromCT for more on this virus’s pandemic potential), so it’s appropriate that Mexico has closed schools until May 6 and barred large public gatherings, including church services. Other countries have issued travel warnings and are investigating cases of flu-like symptoms.

CDC and WHO have both made this a top priority and are holding regular news briefings on it. Revere at Effect Measure says that WHO’s failure to update the pandemic alert level from 3 to 4 shows that these “descriptions are meaningless and have nothing to do with what is happening on the ground.”

Sources: El Universal, CDC, WHO, Associated Press
Blogs tracking the outbreak: Effect Measure, DemFromCT at Daily Kos, Aetiology, FluWiki