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Health Officials: Still Wary -- But Hopeful

This is good news, because I don't think the economy can handle another major blow: With four Washington area schools closed over the swine flu out

This is good news, because I don't think the economy can handle another major blow:

With four Washington area schools closed over the swine flu outbreak and the region bracing for another tense week of flu news, top health officials here and abroad projected yesterday a cautious optimism that the new virus is not as lethal as initially feared.

Genetic analysis has failed to detect in the influenza virus the "virulence factors" seen in the killer 1918 Spanish flu or the avian flu that surfaced earlier this decade, Richard E. Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said yesterday.

Moreover, the new virus may have been more widespread in Mexico than originally reported, which would make the seemingly high mortality rate there a misperception, he added.

"We are starting to see that there was widespread flu in Mexico," Besser said on NBC's "Meet the Press," as he joined two other Obama administration officials in making the rounds of Sunday morning talk shows. "As we learn more about how widespread this is, it may be that the rates of severe disease in Mexico will end up being not different than what we see here."

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