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Posted May 1, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Two Virginians have confirmed swine flu cases


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Man and woman contracted sickness on Mexico trips, have since recovered

By Bob Lewis -- The Associated Press

and Garren Shipley -- gshipley@nvdaily.com

RICHMOND -- A man and a woman from Virginia contracted swine flu on recent trips to Mexico and have recovered after mild confirmed cases, officials said Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a man from eastern Virginia and a woman from central Virginia contracted the illness, Health Commissioner Karen Remley said. Neither required hospitalization, she said.

She and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine refused to be more specific about the patients, including their ages.

Remley narrowed down the location of the man to the Hampton Roads, Peninsula or Northern Neck regions of the state.

Virginia is the 12th state to have swine flu cases confirmed by the CDC and brought the total to 111 cases nationally. Officials in eight states have confirmed an additional 19 cases.

Twelve deaths in Mexico and one in the United States have been tied to confirmed swine flu cases in what the World Health Organization calls a pandemic.

"Given the size of the state's population [and] the seasonal travel patterns we see in Virginia and elsewhere, and the ease with which the flu vitus is spread, we think it is likely there will be additional cases," Kaine said. "We don't know how many, we don't know over what period of time that may manifest itself."

Kaine said Virginians who have some of the symptoms are checking in heavy numbers with doctors, and some of the ailments turn out to be seasonal allergies, particularly to pollen. What distinguishes the virus from those maladies is fever, Kaine said.

Earlier in the day Dr. Mark Levine, the Virginia Department of Health's commissioner for emergency preparedness, told reporters on a conference call that there are still many unknowns with the virus, sometimes called H1N1 2009.

"This is a fluid situation," Levine said.

With only one death reported in the U.S. -- a small child brought into the country from Mexico for treatment -- some reports have suggested that the strain now spreading is no worse that the typical December to April influenza that hits every year.

That annual epidemic kills some 36,000 people in the U.S.

But "it's early with H1N1 to know exactly what this virus is going to look like with its severity," Levine said.

"We don't have all the information we need from Mexico," he said. "We're preparing just in case it gets worse."

Part of that preparation is readying stores of anti-viral medications.

Virginia has enough anti-viral medication in reserve -- Tamiflu and Relenza -- to treat nearly 1 million people, over and above the stocks maintained in the normal course of business by pharmacies.

Those stocks might not even be needed, Levine said.

"We're very confident that the pipeline for anti-viral medications" is in good shape and churning out medicine apace, he said.

Nonetheless, lack of information about the new virus is frustrating, particularly for groups that need to plan ahead, such as school systems.

Physicians don't yet know enough about the virus to make solid recommendations on when, if ever, schools should close to contain an outbreak, Levine said.

"The science really isn't there to let us know if early school closure makes a difference or not," Levine said. "We probably won't know how effective it is until this goes on further."

Individual schools have been closed in places like New York and Texas when a confirmed case of the virus has been found.

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