Jason Gale
April 24, 2009

Disease trackers are trying to determine whether a previously unseen strain of influenza in the U.S. is related to more than 130 cases of severe respiratory illness in Mexico and may spark a pandemic.

[efoods]A new variant of H1N1 swine influenza has sickened at least seven patients in California and Texas, the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday. Mexico’s Health Minister Jose Cordova canceled classes in the capital, Mexico City, today and recommended citizens avoid public places after 20 fatalities from an illness possibly caused by a flu virus.

Scientists in both countries and Canada are studying the illnesses to determine whether they pose a larger public health threat. A pandemic can start when a novel influenza type-A virus, including swine flu, begins spreading, since no one has a natural immunity. The so-called 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which may have killed as many as 50 million people, began when an avian flu virus jumped to people, experts said.

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