FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
30 April 2009
CONTACT: Tim Bueler
MEXICAN DIES IN U.S. HOSPITAL FROM FLU, OBAMA REFUSES TO CLOSE THE BORDER
Conducting interviews on this topic is the founder and president of the Minuteman Project Jim Gilchrist.
The first reported death in the United States from the swine flu outbreak was that of a 23-month-old Mexico City boy who fell ill in Brownsville and was transported for treatment at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, where he died Monday, officials said.
Also, officials suspended all high school athletic and academic competition statewide until at least May 11 because of the spreading flu, which has prompted five districts to cancel classes entirely, including three in suburban San Antonio.
Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration for the entire state, basically a paperwork measure that allows Texas to begin emergency protective measures and seek reimbursement from the federal government. Perry also said Texas has 850,000 more courses of antiviral medicine coming, which would double its supply.
Dr. David Persse, director of Houston's emergency medical services, said the acutely ill child was admitted to a Brownsville hospital on April 13 and immediately was rushed by medical transport to Houston.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the boy already had "several underlying health problems" before he flew to Matamoros on April 4 and crossed into Brownsville to visit relatives.
The boy came down with a fever April 8, followed by other flu-like symptoms, the state said.
Persse learned of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmation of the virus before dawn this morning. Other people accompanying the child have shown no signs of illness, and the boy was not known to be sick when he crossed the border, Persse said.
"This doesn't really change the landscape here in Houston," he said. "We know it's in the U.S., it's in Texas and we need to take our own personal precautions."
Those precautions include hand-washing, covering coughs or sneezes and contacting a physician upon detection of flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, nausea or an upset stomach, he said.
Dr. Jeffrey Starke, director of infection control at Texas Children's, said no one at the hospital who cared for the boy has shown any symptoms of swine flu. He said the hospital is closely monitoring the health of those personnel
Mayor Bill White said today it should come as no surprise that severely ill people are transported to a city with "some of the most outstanding medical facilities in the world."
"That does not mean that Houston is somehow an epicenter (of swine flu)," he added.
White said Houston has plans in place to deal with an outbreak and officials already have begun to coordinate information with the city's largest employers through human resource firms, just in case.
"Our country, and for that matter our world, is better prepared than ever to deal with public health emergencies," he said.
One Houston City Council member was upset she had so little information about the case and was irritated that the child was allowed into Houston, even though the first public revelation of a swine flu outbreak didn't come until last week.
"The child was not a United States citizen," said Councilwoman Toni Lawrence, who hinted that the city should be involved in deciding whether a patient with an infectious disease would be cleared for transport here.
"I'm very concerned about this disease, I'm very concerned someone died from it and I'm very concerned council wasn't told about this. We need to be aware of this and continue to do things for Houston and not for anybody else."
David Lakey, commissioner of State Health Services, said there are two people in critical condition in the state who are expected to test positive for swine flu. One is a pregnant woman who has given birth to a healthy baby; he declined to give any other details, including locations.
There have been 16 cases reported in Texas so far but still none reported in Houston. The disease is thought to have begun in Mexico but is being detected around the globe.
"We expect to see more confirmations in the next few days, as does the rest of the country," said Kathy Barton, spokeswoman for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, who added many if not most of the 250 specimens have been submitted to the city from around southeast Texas will come back negative.
Several tests are pending but so far all Houston specimens submitted to the CDC have come back negative except for the one from the dead child. None of the submitted specimens are related to contact with the child, she said.
She added that hospitals that handle any flu cases, swine or otherwise, take precautions to prevent its spread, such as masks, frequent handwashing and other sanitation measures.
"Even though we've been expecting this, it is very, very sad," said Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who made the initial announcement of a Texas death on several nationally televised morning shows today. "As a pediatrician and a parent, my heart goes out to the family."
The five districts that have shut down temporarily are Cleburne in North Texas, Schertz-Cibolo, Comal and New Braunfels near San Antonio and Rio Grande City near the border.
A charter school in Dallas and another in McAllen also closed, along with an elementary school in suburban Dallas where a confirmed case of swine flu was found.
The decision to suspend high school sporting events puts baseball on hold and eliminates regional track championships, said University Interscholastic League Executive Director Charles Breithaupt. He said UIL officials acted on the recommendation of public health officials.
The state golf and tennis championships are scheduled to begin May 11.
The state track meet, one of the largest high school track and field competitions in the country, remains scheduled for May 13-14. But it will require shuffling the schedule significantly.
The closures, plus parents keeping their children home on their own, means thousands of Texas students missed school during an important week of standardized state tests. Texas Education Agency Director Robert Scott said today schools won't be penalized for missed days or TAKS test rescheduling because of the outbreak.
Germany today reported its first three cases of swine flu. The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States today rose to 91 in six states, with 51 in New York, 14 in California, two in Kansas, two in Massachusetts, two in Michigan and one each in Indiana, Ohio, Arizona and Nevada, but cities and states suspected more. In New York, the city's health commissioner said "many hundreds" of schoolchildren were ill at a school where some students had confirmed cases.
The world has no vaccine to prevent infection but U.S. health officials aim to have a key ingredient for one ready in early May, the big step that vaccine manufacturers are awaiting. But even if the World Health Organization ordered up emergency vaccine supplies Â and that decision hasn't been made yet Â it would take at least two more months to produce the initial shots needed for human safety testing.
"We're working together at 100 miles an hour to get material that will be useful," Dr. Jesse Goodman, who oversees the Food and Drug Administration's swine flu work, told The Associated Press.
The U.S. is shipping to states not only enough anti-flu medication for 11 million people, but also masks, hospital supplies and flu test kits. President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.5 billion in emergency funds to help build more drug stockpiles and monitor future cases, as well as help international efforts to avoid a full-fledged pandemic.
"It's a very serious possibility, but it is still too early to say that this is inevitable," the WHO's flu chief, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, told a telephone news conference.
Cuba and Argentina banned flights to Mexico, where swine flu is suspected of killing more than 150 people and sickening well over 2,000. In a bit of good news, Mexico's health secretary, Jose Cordova, late Tuesday called the death toll there "more or less stable."
Mexico City, one of the world's largest cities, has taken drastic steps to curb the virus' spread, starting with shutting down schools and on Tuesday expanding closures to gyms and swimming pools and even telling restaurants to limit service to takeout. People who venture out tend to wear masks in hopes of protection.
New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Britain, Canada and now Germany have also reported cases. But the only deaths so far have been Mexican citizens, baffling experts.
About Jim Gilchrist:
Jim Gilchrist founded the multi-ethnic Minuteman Project on Oct. 1, 2004, after years of frustrated efforts trying to get a neglectful U.S. government to simply enforce existing immigration laws.
Jim holds a B.A. in newspaper journalism, a B.S. in business administration, and an M.B.A. in taxation. He is a former newspaper reporter and a retired California CPA (Certified Public Accountant).
Jim is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and recipient of the Purple Heart award for wounds sustained while serving with an infantry unit in Vietnam, 1968 - 1969.
Mr. Gilchrist is a passionate defender of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and an avid supporter of law enforcement organizations. He has appeared on over 3,500 radio and TV news and commentary shows in the past twelve months, and he believes he is only one of millions of 21st century minutemen / women / children who want the U.S. to remain governed by the "rule of law" and who want proactive enforcement of our national security protections and our immigration legal code.
Jim has lived in California since 1976 and currently resides in Aliso Viejo with his wife, Sandy.