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US Health Officials Warn Public to Remain Vigilant Against Flu

Mexican officials lowered the alert level for influenza A H1N1, commonly called swine flu, Monday, as the number of cases seems to be ebbing. The World Health Organization has confirmed over 2,000 cases of the virus in about 22 countries. Although health officials say it now appears less lethal than once feared, they say countries must continue to act with vigilance.

US schools cautiously reopen

U.S. schools have begun to reopen after some had been closed when a few children tested positive for the influenza A H1N1.

But health officials say people should continue to take basic precautions against the virus known as the swine flu, such as washing their hands and covering their mouths for a cough or sneeze.

Assistant surgeon general at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rear Admiral Mitchell Cohen, says it is still too soon to tell how virulent this strain of influenza will be.

"We're at a point in time where the next few days to weeks will give us a great deal of information," Cohen said. "It's not a time of year when influenza is generally easily transmitted - this is the end of the influenza season."

Cohen briefed members of the senate staff and reporters this week in Washington on progress made at the local, state and federal level. "We're primarily focusing on efforts to try to interrupt transmission and to reduce severity."

Face mask, hand sanitizer gel supplies low

Bruce Frishman says he has sold almost all of the hand sanitizer gel. The president of a local pharmacy and medical supply store shows his shelves, depleted by cautious customers.

The store is sold out of all face masks, which can be seen occasionally on the streets.

"We've just been flooded with phone calls requesting, primarily masks, everything from individual customers to nursing agencies, police departments, any healthcare professionals - everyone looking for masks," Frishman said.

Frishman says he is not sure when he will be able to re-stock.

Will H1N1 return during winter season?

For Mitchell Cohen, the real question is whether this strain of influenza will recur.

"Previous pandemics often started off with an early phase, often a phase that was mild - that then came back in a seasonal timeframe that was more severe," Cohen said.

World Health Organization officials are looking at the Southern Hemisphere, where it is feared the flu will spread, and possibly mutate, during the winter season.