Schools Shutter as Public Health Officials Work to Contain Flu Virus
JUDY WOODRUFF: First, the flu story. The illness continued its spread, as the number of U.S. cases passed 100, and more schools closed. Ray Suarez begins our report.
RAY SUAREZ: With at least 16 U.S. states now reporting confirmed flu cases, some localities are taking forceful steps to prevent the virus' potential spread.
Fort Worth, Texas, has closed its entire school system, sending home more than 80,000 students.
DR. SANDRA PARKER, director, Health Department, Tarrant County, Texas: It is the recommendation of Tarrant County public health that the Fort Worth ISD close the district schools for the duration through May 8th and cancel all school-related activities.
RAY SUAREZ: All told, more than 170,000 students in 11 states are being kept from school for as much as a week.
In Atlanta, Dr. Richard Besser of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said his agency was acting as if a pandemic were imminent and that federal, state and local efforts are warranted, even in the absence of widespread transmission.
DR. RICHARD BESSER, acting director, Centers for Disease Control: We continue to be very aggressive in our approach, and we're going to continue to do that until the situation tells us that we no longer need to do so.
There's no one action that's going to stop this. There's no silver bullet. But all of the efforts — the efforts of governments, the efforts of communities, the efforts of individuals — will help to reduce the impact on people's health.
RAY SUAREZ: The agency is dispensing antiviral medication to nine states as part of its efforts to combat the virus.
The White House press secretary said this afternoon that the H1N1 virus, the technical name of the disease strain, may have affected a member of the president's recent delegation to Mexico and three of the advance staffer's family members.
ROBERT GIBBS, White House press secretary: Further testing is being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the nature of the outcome. The original patient tested negative, likely because so much time had elapsed since the onset of his own symptoms that they would not show up in the test.
As I said, all four individuals experienced only mild symptoms, and all four have recovered. This person has been cleared to go back to work by doctors and is back working today.
RAY SUAREZ: Elsewhere in Washington this morning, Vice President Biden went significantly beyond previous government travel advisories when answering a question about how he's advising his own family.
U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that it's going to Mexico. It's you're in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway.
RAY SUAREZ: The vice president's office quickly tried to clarify the statement, suggesting he was referring only to preventive measures if people are sick.
But his comments led to several questions at a House hearing on the flu with senior government health officials.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER, D-N.Y.: I think you'll forgive our constituents for being a little whip-sawed by the news and images that they get, and I represent the district that has half of all of the confirmed cases in the country.