Texas health officials on Tuesday announced the first death of a U.S. resident with swine flu, and said she was a 33-year-old schoolteacher who had recently given birth to a healthy baby.
The woman died early Tuesday and had been hospitalized since April 19, said Leonel Lopez, Cameron County epidemiologist.
Health officials stopped short of saying that swine flu caused the woman's death. State health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said the woman had "chronic underlying health conditions" but wouldn't give any more details.
Lopez said the flu exacerbated the woman's condition. "The swine flu is very benign by itself," Lopez said. But "by the time she came to see us it was already too late."
Tuesday evening, cars filled the driveway and lined the quiet street in front of Judy Trunnell's home in a quiet, new Harlingen subdivision.
A woman who came to the door with tear-streaked eyes declined to give her name or to comment on the death, saying "we're grieving now."
The only other swine flu death in the U.S. was of a Mexico City boy who also had underlying health problems and had been visiting relatives in Brownsville, near Harlingen. He died last week at a Houston children's hospital.
There have been 26 other confirmed swine flu deaths, all in Mexico. Hundreds of cases of the disease have been confirmed in several countries, but mostly in Mexico and the U.S.
The teacher was from Harlingen, a city of about 63,000 near the U.S.-Mexico border. The school district where she worked announced it would close its schools for the rest of the week, though officials said anyone who might have contracted the disease from her would have shown symptoms by now.
The teacher was first seen by a physician April 14 and was hospitalized on the 19th. The woman delivered a healthy baby while hospitalized and stayed in the hospital until her death, said Lopez, who declined to give further details about the baby.
Doctors knew she had a flu when she came in, but did not know what kind, Lopez said. The area is undergoing a Type A influenza epidemic right now, of which the swine flu is one variety, he said. She was confirmed to have swine flu shortly before she died, he said.
U.S. health officials changed course on their advice to schools Tuesday, saying they are no longer recommending that schools close for the swine flu. Last week, the government had advised schools to shut down for about two weeks if there were suspected cases of swine flu.
"We no longer feel that school closure is warranted," said Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the swine flu virus had turned out to be milder than feared and the government decided to change its advice. So far, the virus has not proved to be more infectious or deadly than the seasonal flu.
The change in guidance was made in consultation with the White House and other officials, Besser and others said.
An estimated 726 public and nonpublic schools were closed Tuesday for flu-related reasons, in 24 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Education Department. In total, these schools enroll approximately 468,000 students on a typical day. (There are more than 100,000 schools in the U.S., with about 55 million students.)
The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States is now over 400, with hundreds more probable cases.
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell in El Paso and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.