Thursday, April 30, 2009

Toddler who died of swine flu visited Houston mall

By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN Associated Press Writers © 2009 The Associated Press
April 30, 2009, 3:14PM

McALLEN, Texas — A Mexico City toddler who became the first swine-flu death on U.S. soil spent a day shopping at a huge indoor mall in Houston one day before he began to show symptoms.

Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, who spoke with an aunt of the boy in Brownsville who made the Houston trip, said they spent three nights in Houston just before he fell ill and was hospitalized in Brownsville.

The hospital, city and health officials on Wednesday said the 23-month old boy had traveled from Mexico City to Brownsville, where he became sick. When the hospital in Brownsville, a city of 140,000, could no longer care for him, he was medically transported to Texas Children's Hospital. They said he had had no outside contact in Houston. The family has shown no symptoms.

Calls seeking comment from Texas Children's Hospital were not immediately returned.

Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch, a professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health in Brownsville, said that those infected can secrete the virus through their saliva 24 hours before they display symptoms.

The toddler then could have been infectious while he was in Brownsville the first time and was probably infectious while in Houston, said Fisher-Hoch, who was former deputy branch chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Special Pathogens Laboratory. Still, the toddler would not have likely transmitted the virus to many people at the mall, she said.

Kathy Barton, spokeswoman for the Houston Health and Human Services Department, said the city's epidemiologist would try to re-interview the family, but that the family didn't mention the first trip to Houston. Barton said the a large mall would also not be very conducive to transmitting the virus by a toddler who was likely in a stroller, she said.


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