Swine flu outbreak triggers pandemic alarm

Health officials are starting to scramble as it appears that a new strain of swine flu has triggered an outbreak in Mexico and raises the prospect of a global pandemic.

The World Health Organization says that it is trying to determine exactly what has killed 57 people suffering from the flu. At least 16 of them have been confirmed killed by swine flu and hundreds more have taken sick. Health officials in the U.S. are working to determine if the same version of swine flu--a new arrival that mixes a variety of strains--is involved that has afflicted several people now in Texas and California.

Mexico says that it has 500,000 doses of vaccines available for health workers, but none for the general public. There is abundant evidence that the flu is being spread from person to person.

Particularly alarming for epidemiologists is that the flu appears to be hitting healthy young people the hardest. In some of the worst outbreaks, the healthiest are most vulnerable as their more robust immune systems trigger a cytokine storm that can overwhelm their lungs.

 - read the report in the New York Times