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Mass. Prepares For Possible Swine Flu Outbreak01:07
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Reports out of Mexico say the swine flu has claimed 149 lives there. In the U.S., the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 41 people are sick with the illness.

There are currently no confirmed cases in Massachusetts, but health officials have tested about two dozen local residents who have flu-like symptoms and the state is preparing for a possible outbreak.

The state's epidemiologist isn't giving exact numbers, but told reporters Monday that the state has already ruled out several of the two dozen or so patients being tested for swine flu.

Dr. Al de Maria says the state is taking the virus seriously, and anyone with flu symptoms should be screened.

"On the one hand, we want to find these cases and we want to have sort of a high sensitivity — we want to explore every possible situation that might be swine flu," Dr. de Maria says. "We don't want to limit that. But that also means most of what we investigate is not going to be swine flu."

Health officials in Lowell say two middle-school students there are being tested for the swine flu virus after visiting Mexico for spring break. According to the city's health director, Frank Singleton, the students have not attended school since the break, so it wasn't necessary to cancel classes.

Meantime, health officials in Boston are monitoring attendance in Boston public schools and watching for an uptick in absences.

"I think that its likely that swine flu has actually been circulating for a little bit longer than when the first cases were detected," says Anita Barry, the city's director of Infectious Disease. "That being said, I suspect there's a little bit more swine influenza right now than we are aware of, so I won't be surprised if we see cases in Boston."

Just in case there is an outbreak in Boston, or anywhere else in Massachusetts, state officials have accepted 200,000 courses of antiviral drugs from the national stockpile. They'll add those to 50,000 courses already in Massachusetts and put them in a secure location.

This program aired on April 28, 2009.

Bianca Vázquez Toness Twitter Reporter
Bianca Vázquez Toness was formerly a report for WBUR.

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