ATLANTA – A unique type of swine flu has been diagnosed in seven people in California and Texas, up from the two reported earlier this week, U.S. health officials said Thursday.
Health officials said it's not a cause for public alarm: The five in California and two in Texas have all recovered, and testing indicates some mainstream antiviral medications seem to work against the virus.
Still, it is a growing medical mystery. None of the seven people were in contact with pigs, which is how people usually catch swine flu. Only a few were in contact with each other, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said officials believe it can spread human-to-human, which is unusual for a swine flu virus.
The CDC is checking people who have been in contact with the seven confirmed cases, who all became ill between late March and mid-April.
Because of the intensive searching, it's likely health officials will find additional cases, said Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Earlier this week, CDC officials said they had detected a virus with a unique combination of gene segments that have not been seen in people or pigs before. The bug contains segments of human virus, avian virus from North America and pig viruses from North America, Europe and Asia.
The virus may be something completely new, or it may have been around for a while but was only detected now because of improved lab testing and disease surveillance, CDC officials said.
The virus was first detected in two children in southern California — a 10-year-old boy in San Diego County and a 9-year-old girl in neighboring Imperial County.
On Thursday, investigators said they've discovered five more cases. They include a father and his teenage daughter in San Diego County, a 41-year-old woman in Imperial County (the only person hospitalized), and two 16-year-old boys who are friends and live in Guadalupe County, Texas, near San Antonio.
The Texas cases are especially puzzling. One of the California cases — the 10-year-old boy — traveled to Texas early this month, but that was to Dallas, about 270 miles northeast from San Antonio. He did not travel to the San Antonio area, Schuchat said.
The boys had not traveled recently, Texas health officials said.
The swine flu's symptoms are like those of the regular flu, mostly involving fever, cough and sore throat, though some of the seven also experienced vomiting and diarrhea.
CDC are not calling it an outbreak, a term that suggests ongoing illnesses. It's not known if anyone is getting sick from the virus right now, CDC officials said.
It's also not known if the seasonal flu vaccine that Americans got last fall and early this year protects against this type of virus. People should wash their hands and take other customary precautions, CDC officials said.