CDC investigates H1N1 flu cases

May 18, 2009 (CHICAGO) A total of 300 cases has been confirmed in the city.

The CDC is focusing some of its attention on St. Joseph Hospital because a high number of employees came down with the virus.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says the H1N1 flu is widespread in 22 states and it is not going away soon. They have more than 80 people deployed in the field examining flu cases. Some visited Chicago on Monday.

"It's not unusual. Actually, whenever there's a new virus identified in the United States. The C.D.C. would come and investigate and we definitely do have H1N1 flu virus activity in our community," said Dr. Susan Gerber, Chicago chief medical director.

Officials at St. Joseph Hospital in Lincoln Park said that last week the Chicago hospital called a code yellow disaster because of escalating numbers of flu among employees and patients.

"There were some employees who had developed the flu, just mild symptoms and we identified them, took them off work and decided to take extra precautions to make sure we were limiting contact," said Dr. Roberta Luskin-Hawk, chairman, Dept. of Medicine, St. Joseph Hospital.

Dr. Luskin-Hawk says CDC personnel were at the hospital on Monday.

"A couple members of the Chicago team are helping us take a look at things. Their role is certainly to look at Chicago because Chicago has a high number of cases compared to the company in general," said Dr. Luskin-Hawk.

The CDC says H1N1 is affecting younger people.

"We're also seeing numerous outbreaks in schools which is also very unusual for this time of year," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC.

"We're still trying to remind people to wash their hands and to cover their cough but especially wash their hands and if they're sick, stay home," said Dr. Gerber.

"The most important thing is during the epidemic of 1918 they practiced something called distancing. That is you keep yourself three feet away from the other person and that keeps you away from their coughing, their sneezing, the drop lets that come out if they're infected it won't get on you," said Dr. Joseph Mejia.

CDC officials say the country is not out of the woods. They say everyone should remain vigilant and use common sense. But officials also say it is now safe to travel to Mexico.

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