Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Obama hopeful flu turns out to be ‘ordinary’

Nearly 250,000 schoolkids home after closings

WASHINGTON – President 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 flat-footed.

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.

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