Health officials are starting to suspect the swine flu virus first reported in Mexico won't hurt people more than a regular flu. If officials can confirm that, the news might end the rash of recent school closures.
Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, says data trickling in from Mexico on the worst flu cases is still being analyzed. England, speaking at an afternoon news conference, struck an optimistic tone: "We are getting some information that it looks like it's much more widespread in Mexico that we have originally believed, and that the proportion of individuals, therefore, who are seriously ill is more in line with what you expect to see with regular influenza."
Officials said initial information seems to show that only 5 percent of people who get swine flu will need to be hospitalized.
England said he expects an end to the school closure policy sooner rather than later.
"I really don't want to disrupt people's lives anymore than we need to," England said.
The four patients confirmed to have swine flu in Arizona so far did not involve any travel to Mexico, meaning health officials were correct in their assessment that the flu is "bouncing around" the community, he said.
At least 50 samples from suspected Arizona patients have been sent to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control for testing, officials said. By the end of the weekend, Arizona officials are expected to have the equipment from CDC necessary to test for swine flu themselves.
Officials reiterated their message from yesterday: Stay home from work or school if sick, go to the doctor only if you have really bad symptoms, cover your sneezes and wash hands frequently.