Swine Flu; Obama's first 100

April 30, 2009 2:05:56 PM PDT
It's hard to keep track of the numbers. As of this writing, the number of confirmed swine flu cases has grown to 91 in the U.S. in 10 states -- 51 of the cases in New York State, and 49 of those in New York City -- all at St. Francis Prep School in Queens. There are many suspected cases - including a "second cluster" at PS 177 close to St. Francis -- and it's hard to argue that government and education officials haven't been cautious, closing schools until tests on people who are ill come back either positive or negative for the swine flu.

Fortunately - and I say this knowing that scores have died in Mexico and, now, one 2 year old has died in Texas (a toddler who lived in Mexico City, the ground zero of this outbreak) --- the health crisis has not been nearly as tragic as it could have been. Would it have been worse had it happened in the winter? If the strain had been more virulent, how much more deadly would it have been? Did health officials respond adequately? Are we truly prepared for a pandemic?

The questions are important because most health experts have been warning of a pandemic for some time. And indeed, late this afternoon, the World Health Organization raised its alert level to five, the second highest, because they believe a pandemic is imminent.

The ease of travel means that viruses can easily hop from one corner of the world to another in a matter of hours. As Pres. Obama told yet another town meeting today in Missouri, it's "not like we can just draw a moat around America."

The people in charge of the public safety response are hopefully paying close attention to how they, and we, have reacted. Lessons learned in this relatively mild outbreak could spell the difference later between a measured, effective response and disaster.

Meanwhile, there's quite a sideshow going on about what to call this outbreak. Swine flu is the handle, but in some quarters it's considered a politically incorrect term.

Israel, for example, wants it called "Mexican flu" because Jews and Muslims don't eat pork.

Others worry that linking the disease to pigs will hurt the pork industry. Already China, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates have all banned meat and pork products from some parts of the U.S.

The World Health Organization, by the way, says no-way, no-how can you get swine flu by eating pork. The fact that "victim zero" lived near a U.S.-owned pig farm in Mexico has helped link swine to this outbreak.

"North American flu" is one term that's been used. So has "novel flu."

And now, worried about the economic impact on the pork business, some U.S. Officials have taken to calling swine flu by its official medical designation: "H1N1."

Even Pres. Obama used the moniker last night after new Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in.

We'll have the latest on the swine flu - er, excuse me -- the H1N1 outbreak, tonight at 11, including the latest from Mexico City, where our Joe Torres is. He's the only TV reporter from our area in Mexico, to bring you the latest on the outbreak. (For a look at our resource guide, CLICK HERE.)

Also at 11, we're covering yet another prime-time news conference by the President - this one marking Mr. Obama's 100th day in office. 100 days down, 1361 to go. (To look at pictures of the first 100 days in office, CLICK HERE.)

The latest ABC News poll shows the President's approval rating still high at 69%, this even though the economy remains mired in recession. (by the way, the average approval ratings for every President's first 100 days since Eisenhower is 68%.)

No question, Mr. Obama is trying to change the country-- from how the economy's regulated, to environmental protection, to how the world views us. The 100-day period, typically a honeymoon, hasn't exactly been that for the new President. The opposition party gave him a 10-day honeymoon, or so it seems, and has by most indications hurt itself in the process.

Tonight at 11, a report card of sorts on the President's first 100 days in office, and highlights from his news conference. Jeff Pegues has our story.

Also at 11, Jim Hoffer continues his investigation into problems with safety at area airports. Tonight Jim looks at whistleblowers within the Air Traffic Controllers union. When some of them pointed out safety problems - they were punished for it.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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