The U.S. now has 91 confirmed cases of the new swine flu in 10 states.
Dr. Richard Besser, the acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says thus far only five of those cases needed hospitalization, including a Mexican toddler who became the first death recorded in the U.S., in Texas.
The increase is not surprising. For days, CDC officials have said they expected to confirm more cases — and more severe illnesses — as they intensively hunt down this new virus.
Until now the government had known of outbreaks in just five states. But the new information shows cases in five more: Massachusetts, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Indiana.
Health officials said today that a nearly 2-year-old Mexican boy is the first confirmed U.S. death from swine flu.
The child had traveled with family from Mexico City to Matamoros, Mexico, and then to neighboring Brownsville, Texas, said Houston Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Kathy Barton. The boy became ill and was taken to a Houston hospital. He died Monday night, she said.
Health officials did not immediately release more information about the case, but the boy is not believed to be among the six confirmed cases of swine flu in Texas.
Dr. Richard Besser, the acting head of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, called the confirmation tragic. He said it’s too soon to tell how fast the swine flu virus is spreading.
Besser told NBC’s “Today” show that health authorities had anticipated that the virus would cause deaths, and said that “as a pediatrician and a parent, my heart goes out to the family.”
He said it’s too soon to speculate as to whether the virus would become a nationwide problem, and that he doesn’t believe the flu strain has become more dangerous.
Besser went on to note that even with seasonal flu, there are always some people who can’t resist it very well, and said authorities need to learn more about the threat.
Children, especially those younger than age 5, are particularly vulnerable to flu and its complications, and every year children die from seasonal flu.
According to the CDC, more than 20,000 children younger than age 5 are hospitalized every year because of seasonal flu. In the 2007-08 flu season, the CDC received reports that 86 children nationwide died from flu complications.
As of April 11, CDC had received reports of 53 seasonal flu-related deaths in children during the current seasonal flu season.
Swine flu is suspected of killing more than 150 people in Mexico and sickening over 2,400 there.