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CT Epidemiologist Explains Flu Threat
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On Thursday, two students at Fairfield University were identified as new probable swine flu cases, while from test results on two East Haddam students and a Wethersfield school employee came back negative. Meanwhile, Connecticut's epidemiologist warns that this threat will not go away anytime soon.

When Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Management Wayne Sanford addressed lawmakers Thursday morning, there were still no confirmed cases of swine flu in Connecticut. But he assured them, the state is already coordinating communications and logistics between local, state, and federal agencies. 

"This is a health emergency." 

For now, state epidemiologist Dr. Matt Cartter says it is still unknown how severe this particular strain will be, but he offered this projection.

"We should expect that this should be at least as severe as seasonal influenza. And with seasonal influenza, we usually see between 15 to 25 percent, and every year about 35-thousand Americans die from seasonal influenza."

A flu's severity is different than its contagiousness. During the 1918 flu epidemic, for example, 30 percent of the population contracted the flu. Just 2 percent of those died. And that is a much higher mortality rate than for the average seasonal flu, when it is only about 0.1 percent.

Cartter says what is troubling is this particular strain is new.

"They're saying that this virus is like none we've ever seen before, so none of us likely have any protection against this."

And he stressed that even if the public takes precautions like hand washing and staying home when sick, he does not expect a quick resolution.    

"This could be a really long haul. Pandemics tend to occur in waves. Whatever this is, let's call it an outbreak at this point, when was the last time you saw a new flu strain in May?"

Cartter says that could mean cases will lull over the summer, and resurface in the fall with the next flu season. But by that time, he says, a vaccine may be ready.