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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Swine Flu Spreads around the World; HHS Secretary Sworn In; Specter Switches Parties; Firefighters Allege "Reverse Discrimination"
Aired April 28, 2009 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news and our first picture of a killer. Take a look. This is a photo of the actual virus taken through an electron microscope at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta; H1N1, swine flu. Nothing but a tiny bit of protein and genetic material, it doesn't eat or breathe or move on its own.
But when it gets inside a human body, it breeds, it kills, and right now the virus is spreading. Confirmed or suspected outbreaks now in nine American states. At least 64 confirmed cases. Hundreds more suspected here; thousands around the world. 152 deaths in Mexico now linked to swine flu.
The apparent original victim identified in Mexico. At home, new action being taken; new federal money being sought. The president's top health official confirmed today and sworn in tonight. But with all that is being done to stop it, officials are warning, expect more cases and expect Americans to die.
COOPER (voice-over): As one expert said, the virus is here, and it's spreading. In New York, fear that the outbreak has jumped from one school to at least three.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, NYC HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We know that many hundreds of students were ill with symptoms which most likely were swine flu.
COOPER: Those numbers don't include a toddler and woman both hospitalized with the suspected virus. In California, a state of emergency has been declared with Governor Schwarzenegger promising swift action to stop this deadly new threat.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: The federal government has released 25 percent of its stockpile of antiviral drugs, masks and protective gear. And California's share is already arriving here in our state.
COOPER: And from Washington, a pledge for money with President Obama asking Congress for $1.5 billion to help fight the swine flu that the Centers for Disease Control warns will kill Americans. RICHARD BESSER, ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: As this moves forward, I fully expect that we will see deaths from this infection.
COOPER: Worldwide, more countries are reporting suspected or confirmed cases. While in Mexico, the death toll continues to rise. In the capital, extraordinary steps to protect millions, restaurants, gyms, theaters, schools. They've all been virtually closed by order of the city.
Americans are being warned to avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico. But that's for leaving the country. What steps are being made at the border?
JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Customs and Border Protection continues to watch for signs of illness among travelers entering the United States. All persons entering from a location with reported human infection of H1N1 flu will be processed through all appropriate CBP protocols.
COOPER: Those protocols follow the screening guidelines from the World Health Organization which raised the pandemic alert to level four out of six.
And in Texas, a family isolated after testing positive for the swine flu. Their case is mild. They hope for a quick recovery.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they've said five to eight days is usually the case. But we don't really know -- hopefully we'll find out today. Maybe this will be all over today for us.
COOPER: Well, chances are though, it will be weeks or months before the world can say the same.
In the meantime tonight, the woman who's supposed to be in charge of the fight is finally officially on the job at the White House. A short time ago this evening, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the oath of office.
Ed Henry is at the White House now -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, to give you a sense of the urgency of swine flu and how it's being handled by this administration, the White House arranged for a special plane to take Kathleen Sebelius from Kansas to Andrews Air Force Base so that right after the Senate confirmed her, they could swear her in the Oval Office tonight very quickly.
And then immediately she was moved downstairs at the White House to the Situation Room so she could get a secure briefing from John Brannen, the president's top counter-terror official, who's been a point person in all this, and also White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. All this to show the fact that this White House has been facing tough questions about personnel gaps, and they want to show that has not hampered their response at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need all hands on deck. And so I am thrilled that we have Secretary Sebelius taking the reins. She is going to be immediately briefed on the issues that we're working on right now. I expect her to hit the ground running.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So Ed, when the president says hit the ground running, what exactly do they want Sebelius to do next?
HENRY: White House officials want her very quickly tomorrow to get together with officials, for example, at the CDC. They've been running all of this with an acting secretary. They didn't have someone in place.
But they also want her to work quickly as well with the Senate to fill a lot of lower-level vacancies at the Health Department. Nobody at home there right now. They want to make sure that they have the right people in place because they have a full plate.
Not just swine flu and this crisis immediately now, but in the long haul, the next 100 days and beyond, this president wants to make health reform a key issue. They've been slowed by the Tom Daschle debacle. They now want to get this team in place, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Ed Henry from the White House tonight. Ed thanks.
Some welcome news tonight from the CDC. Researchers there say they are about a third of the way toward isolating what's called a reference strain, a sample of the virus which is a key ingredient in making a vaccine. Now, they are hoping to have it sometime next month.
Back in Mexico though, authorities believe they know where the outbreak started and with whom. Patient Zero reportedly a young boy now recovering in the town of La Gloria.
360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there and found him -- Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I tell you, it was a little bit like finding a needle in a haystack -- finding this young boy in the mountains of Vera Cruz, a state in Mexico.
There was a long time -- there was a suspicion that pig farms would be close to whoever the first patient was. Swine flu somehow, as you know, Anderson, there was a jump that was made between animals and humans. How exactly that jump happened and what it meant in terms of human-to-human transmission still is not entirely clear, although once you start locating this Patient Zero and some of the earliest patients, you can look. You can get some better clues and better ideas as to exactly what happened. I think more importantly, how to treat it and how to take care of it in the future -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, this little boy who we're showing is adorable. He was what, the first known case?
GUPTA: What happened with him, Anderson, was interesting. Back in March he became ill, along with some other people here in this village. He got tested at that point.
But you'll remember back then, no one knew what swine flu was. So there was nothing to test for. Once all the news about swine flu came back, the doctors went back and started looking at some of those samples again.
And in his case, again, he got sick in March. In his case, it came back positive for swine flu. As far as we can tell now -- and there's going to be other cases that might crop up over the days and weeks to come -- but as far as we can tell, he appears to be the first person that had symptoms of swine flu and then subsequently got his blood tested at that point.
You'll notice one thing -- I don't know if you're seeing the video there Anderson, I'm not wearing a mask that's because the doctors told me and the family told me as well he is fully recovered. He is no longer contagious. And he is adorable, like you said, he's doing just great.
He's with his family there. And none of them -- they were all tested. None of them have swine flu.
COOPER: So if this originated with pigs or hogs, I mean, are there pigs in this area?
GUPTA: There are pigs in this area. And, in fact, there's a very large processing plant of hogs, Smithfield, which is something that people may have heard of because they have sister plants in the United States, in Virginia, specifically.
Now, this is a controversy we sort of stumbled into because on one hand some of the villagers have been very concerned about these pig farms being so close and getting potential diseases like this.
On the other hand, the pig farms themselves, the owners of the pig farms themselves, say, look, there is no problem here.
In fact, we went to the pig farm...
COOPER: Yes, we're seeing the video right now.
GUPTA: We tried to get in to talk to some of the owners -- yes, we tried to get in to talk to some of the owners there. They had a press conference where they basically said there was no connection here.
In fact, they released a statement specifically to us at CNN that says, "There's no reason to believe that the virus is in any way connected to its operations in Mexico. Its joint ventures in Mexico routinely administers influenza virus vaccination to their swine herds and conduct monthly tests for the presence of swine influenza."
Anderson, they're saying flatly no, they are saying there's no connection here. But the villagers here -- this very small town, they're still very apprehensive about this and they're still believing that there's some connection.
COOPER: So in terms of the cases now in Mexico, I mean, the death toll continues to rise there. Again, still schools are shut down. Nightclubs are shut down. Theaters?
GUPTA: Yes. And there was some more action in Mexico City today as well. A lot of those things were recommended to have been shut down. But now there's an actual order coming from the government saying you have to shut down restaurants.
People can come in and take food to go, but there is no gathering of people in restaurants and all those other places you mentioned shut down as well. There's also punitive penalties, you know, monetary penalties if people don't abide by these things.
It's interesting, Anderson, because on one hand the numbers seem to be going in the right direction if you will. The fatality rates decreasing, but containment is really the key here. This virus is already starting to spread around the world, as you know. But they still want to contain it as much as possible. And this is one of the best strategies they have.
COOPER: Listen, you've been down there now a while. Are you personally worried for yourself, your crew?
GUPTA: You know, it's -- well, we talk about this a lot. We talked about it a lot before coming here. You know, whenever you think about going to what people refer to as Ground Zero and interacting with Patient Zero, you want to be very careful.
We wear our masks when we're within six feet of somebody who we think may be infected, that's a general rule. Washing our hands all the time, we carry medications with us.
You know, I don't take chances. I'm a cautious guy Anderson, and I think the crew is as well, so we're trying to take very good care of ourselves.
COOPER: All right, Sanjay is going to be with us throughout this hour answering a lot of your questions. So we'll check back in with him.
As always, let us know what you think. Logon to the live chat happening now by going to AC360.com and I'm just about to log on myself. You can also check out Erica Hill's live Web cast there during the commercial breaks.
Up next, though, the reason to cover your mouth, wash your hands and be careful what you touch, all the things that doctors like Sanjay tell us to do, we're actually going to show you Up Close the destructive power and lingering danger of a single sneeze. It's really fascinating.
Also ahead tonight, answering your questions about what works and what doesn't against an outbreak. How to stay safe and get treatment if you do come down with the flu, Dr. Gupta is back, that along with Dr. Carlos Del Rio.
Send us your questions on Twitter at Anderson Cooper, Facebook at facebook.com/Andersoncooper360 or in the live chat at AC360.com. We're trolling there for questions and we'll put those to Dr. Del Rio and to Dr. Gupta.
Later, he has been a Republican since the 1960s. Find out what made Senator Arlen Specter switch. Or what President Obama and Vice President Biden did to make that happen and why this could make life a whole lot easier now certainly for Democrats in the White House.
Plus, a First Lady's first 100 days. How is she doing? Some never-before seen photos of her and the First Family and how far she came to get here. She acknowledged it today at the Capitol unveiling a bus of the abolitionist, Sojourner Truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, stay home if you're sick. It's the advice that we keep hearing on how to possibly avoid getting or spreading the swine flu.
And of course, we should all listen to it. Where suspected or confirmed cases have been reported, the response has been quick. Like at this San Antonio school where workers cleaned the classrooms. It looks good, but is that really enough?
Tonight, a fascinating and sobering look at germs and why one sneeze is all it takes sometimes for these microscopic organisms to infect a lot of people.
Randi Kaye reports.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With swine flu so close to home, riding the subway these days makes New Yorkers think twice. So many commuters wondering, "Can I get it?"
So we asked Dr. Len Horovitz to ride the rails with us and help us understand the power of a single cough or sneeze.
All it takes is one good achoo to send well over 40,000 droplets barreling in your direction; at about 100,000 miles an hour. They can quickly make dozens of commuters within a few feet very sick. If a person used his hand to cover his sneeze, look out.
(on camera): So if someone sneezed and then grabbed this pole to hang on to, they're going to leave germs behind, and then say I come along to hold on to this pole. I'm going to pick up those germs without even knowing it. Then, say, maybe I come over here to sit down and I touch my hand to the seat. Well, I'm going to leave those germs behind to the next unsuspecting commuter, and it spreads from there.
(voice-over): And Dr. Horovitz, a specialist in respiratory illnesses, says germs are so hardy, they can survive overnight.
DR. LEN HOROVITZ, LENOX HILL HOSPITAL: The viral particles can stay alive for up to 24 hours. So somebody tomorrow morning gets on the subway, touches it, touches their face, introduces it into their body and they've got it.
KAYE: That could mean hundreds, maybe even thousands of people end up sick.
MARISOL MENDOZA, SUBWAY COMMUTER: I carry my hand sanitizer in my purse.
KAYE: Some riders touch their face, rub their eyes, maybe even eat before ever washing their hands.
HOROVITZ: When you touch your face, you're essentially smearing the germ onto your face and any opening, your nose, your mouth, your eyes, is a place where the germ can get into your body and start to incubate and multiply and cause infection.
KAYE (on camera): Just because that sneeze occurred on the subway it doesn't mean the germs stayed there. Say the person who sneezed stops at the metro card machine to buy a subway card before leaving the station. Well, he is going to leave those germs right on that machine for the next person.
(voice-over): And it's not just subway riders. Anyone commuting by car or foot may use a germ-covered hand to open an office door or office refrigerator. Maybe they're even sharing your computer. Yuck.
In a world where germs are the enemy, it's time to suit up for battle and keep your soap handy.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Wow. Amazing.
Just ahead tonight, Sanjay Gupta's back along with Dr. Carlos Del Rio answering your questions. Still time to send them in at AC360.com, just go to the live chat there and ask your questions in there.
Also on Facebook at facebook.com/Andersoncooper360, or AndersonCooper, one word, on Twitter.
Up next, Senator Arlen Specter's big switch. Now he's a Democrat. The question is how much of a difference will it make outside of Washington? We'll have the "Raw Politics" on that.
And later, grading Michelle Obama's first 100 days as First Lady, the conservatives are giving her high marks on some of the highlights of her time in the White House so far. That, and more tonight on the program.
COOPER: We just got breaking news, some more disturbing news from Mexico. Mexican health officials now say the death toll has risen. It was 152 at the start of this hour at 10:00 East Coast time. It's now 159; so 159 known fatalities in Mexico according to Mexican health officials; the numbers rising.
On Capitol Hill today, a stunning switch from a longtime Republican veteran. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania announced he would switch parties and join the Democrats. The White House, of course, was quick to seize the news releasing this photo of President Obama on the phone with Specter today.
The question is why the sudden change of heart by Senator Specter? He says ideology was a major factor. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, there's no doubt, however, that political survival played a major role. Specter, of course, is up for re-election, was doing badly in the Republican primary polls. Specter admitted that he would probably lose his seat next year as a Republican, saying his chances as a Republican were bleak.
GOP Chairman Michael Steele blasted him for a, quote, left-wing voting record. The five term Senator has angered Republicans in the past and Democrats alike. During the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas, he grilled Anita Hill. A few years later, Specter refused to impeach President Clinton. But why does any of this really matter? Well, with his move, the Democrats are now just one seat away from a supermajority. They have 59 seats now.
And if, as expected, Al Franken defeats Norm Coleman in Minnesota, they'll reach the magic 60 number which would give the president a big advantage in Congress.
Joining us now to talk "Raw Politics:" senior political analyst David Gergen and senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. David, did you see this coming?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I certainly did not. There are those in Pennsylvania who say they did, but boy, they're a small number.
This was like a lightning bolt across the sky, Anderson; showing us a Democratic Party that is surging and a Republican Party that's got some real troubles.
COOPER: Does it -- I mean, does it, though, Candy, say something about the Republican Party or does it simply say something about Arlen Specter and his desire to survive as a politician?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It says both. I mean, the reality is that in the United States, many, many fewer people now identify themselves as Republican.
So it stands to reason that you have a better chance in many districts, at least, and in many states of being elected with a D behind your name.
But was this about political survival? It absolutely was about political survival. Was it about ideology? It was, but Arlen Specter has not changed his views since February. The Republican Party has not changed its views since February. And in February, he told people he wasn't going to switch parties.
So if you look at it and you understand that over the weekend as pollsters told him he could win as a Republican, I think this is pure pragmatic politics.
COOPER: David, do you agree with that? I mean, do you have any doubt about that, David?
GERGEN: Oh, no, I think Candy's absolutely right, as she always is. But I think there's a bigger picture here. And that is in both parties, there are people who are moderates. And they are more to the center than they are the conservatives.
And in the Democratic Party there's been a tendency in recent years not to go after moderates except Joe Lieberman. They went after him and almost took him out in Connecticut.
But in the Republican Party, there's been a group from the right called the Club for Growth, and they have some allies, that if you're a moderate, what they try to do to you in a primary or Republican primary is run somebody who is more conservative than you are and try to bring those Republicans out and take you down.
And that's what was happening to Specter. He barely won the last time out against the conservative challenger in the primary, just by one point. And the polls this time showed him back 20 points.
But what happens, Anderson, when you go take somebody out as a moderate, you actually reduce -- you diminish your own party. And so the Republicans find themselves, you know, maybe it's satisfying to conservatives to purify the party this way, but the iconic figure of the Republican Party, as Ronald Reagan always believed in a big tent. The notion that moderates would be welcomed at his table.
COOPER: Well, you know its interesting Candy, because I heard Dana Perino on Larry King earlier saying look, the Republicans have a bigger tent than ever before, and we have all these different kinds of people in the Republican Party.
Is that true?
CROWLEY: If it is, I don't think many people know it. I mean, listen. You know, there are plenty of Republicans that have diverse opinions, but David's absolutely right.
The way -- particularly on a national level that they go after their own is pretty amazing. And if I had to guess, what we do know on the Democratic side is that both President Obama and Democratic leader Reid promised Arlen Specter that they would come and work for him during the primary, and in other words, in the Democratic primary, they would come and work for Specter against anybody else who might get in the race.
He could not get that promise from Republicans. And that's where, I think, the big parting of the ways came because he was facing a serious challenge. The Republicans would not go after his opponent in the Republican primary, and the Democrats would.
COOPER: And David, what does it mean? I mean, what -- what -- the 60 seats, if assuming Al Franken gets it, as seems to be happening, what exactly does that mean for President Obama's agenda?
GERGEN: It means the chances for a passage of a universal health care bill have just gone up. It means chances for getting energy and environmental bill have gone up.
Does that mean he will win every vote now with Arlen Specter? Absolutely not, Specter made that clear today. He'll be more independent like Joe Lieberman. But it really does increase the prospect when they get Al Franken in place, they get Arlen Specter, and Democrats are actually hope they can pick up one or two more seats in 2010.
But I must say, Anderson, this is on the eve of the 100th day for President Obama. He planted these seeds, too. And back in the primaries and the general election, he persuaded with his campaign some 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania to leave their party and go over to the Democratic side.
If those 200,000 were still on the Republican side, it's a very good chance Arlen Specter might have won that primary and stayed in the party. But Obama brought them over. So now he's got the harvest here on the eve of his 100th day.
COOPER: All right, fascinating stuff. David Gergen, thank you and Candy Crowley as well.
Quick program note: tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern, a CNN primetime event, "100 days of the Obama presidency." And David was just talking about it. An entire evening with the best political team on TV, our CNN National Report Card; we'll actually give you a chance to grade the president and Congress on the job they've done so far.
You can actually kind of play along at home. Join us at 7:00. There's a presidential news conference at 8:00. We're going all the way through to midnight.
Next tonight, though, trial by fire. Are white firefighters being discriminated against? That's what they're saying. The Supreme Court is weighing in; the latest on this landmark case ahead.
And also ahead tonight, should you have a mask at home or work? How long does swine flu last? These are just some of the questions we've been getting.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Carlos Del Rio are going to be taking your questions on the swine flu outbreak, the answers you need to know.
You can go to the live chat, right now at AC360.com, probably the easiest way to ask a question right now.
And now we've all seen enough car chases, but a real-life big-rig chase. Did you see this earlier today? A suspect stole a truck. If you look on the back of the truck, the driver is actually clinging for his life; he's going on a wild ride through Georgia. You have to see this pursuit and the amazing ending. It's our "Shot" tonight.
COOPER: At the Supreme Court racially charged cases splitting the Justices and it's also dividing the country. At the center -- a question of reverse discrimination; the battle is unfolding in New Haven where the city is being accused of giving preferential treatment to African-American firefighters.
Joe Johns looks at the facts.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matt Marcarelli and some other firefighters on the New Haven, Connecticut, Fire Department say they got robbed of their jobs by their employer, no less, when they took a test to move up the promotion ladder, and then, they say, the city pulled the ladder out from under them and invalidated the test results, because whites performed so much better than African- Americans.
Marcarelli calls it discrimination.
(on camera): Where do you see the outrage in this?
MATT MARCARELLI, NEW HAVEN FIRE DEPARTMENT: The outrage is that, after three months of studying and preparation for the examinations that were professionally developed, that we took in good faith, they were discarded, the results were discarded, based upon the racial outcome of the exams.
JOHNS: Seventeen white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter sued; guys who passed the test and would have been eligible for promotion. Three African-Americans and one Hispanic who passed the test did not sue.
(on camera): Almost half-a-decade ago, Matt Marcarelli and dozens of other firefighters here in New Haven, Connecticut, took a test that they had to pass in order to become eligible for promotion.
Marcarelli got the highest test score of all of the candidates for promotion to the rank of captain.
(voice-over): But he did not get the job. No one did. The city put all promotions on hold.
MARCARELLI: The immediate thing that went through my mind was that I prepared the hardest for the exam. It showed in my final results. But it was a hollow victory.
JOHNS (on camera): Because?
MARCARELLI: It was robbed from me on the basis of my race.
JOHNS (voice-over): The city claims it wasn't discriminating when it threw out the results. It says the test was flawed and that it would have had, in the legal lingo, a disparate impact on minorities. In other words, the test discriminated against blacks.
VICTOR BOLDEN, NEW HAVEN CITY ATTORNEY: Certainly, you know, those who took the test and hoped to be promoted based on that test are disappointed. And it's unfortunate.
But at the same time, the overriding purpose here is to make sure we comply with the law and make sure we do not use a mechanism that eliminates unfairly opportunities for everyone to be promoted.
JOHNS: It's the kind of case that cities have been struggling with for years. A bunch of city workers takes a test. The whites score higher. The minorities score lower. And somebody ends up in court claiming discrimination.
But it's not all black and white.
So what's really going on here? Most firefighters we spoke with called it politics. Some, like Marcarelli who, five years later, is still a lieutenant with the fire department, called it racial politics. That the city was trying to get more minorities into supervisory positions than the test results would allow. Marcarelli says race should not be a factor.
MARCARELLI: We'd like to see that all firefighters are treated equally, and that was not the case here.
JOHNS: But the city says it was just following workplace anti- discrimination laws. And so far every court that has heard the case has sided with the city.
Joe Johns, CNN, New Haven, Connecticut.
COOPER: Controversial case. Let us know what you think. Join the live chat right now at AC360.com. Also, you can check out Erica Hill's live Web cast throughout the hour during the commercial breaks.
You can also submit your questions for Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Del Rio on the swine flu on the live chat at AC360.com. We've got a lot of great questions already. Or you can tweet us questions at AndersonCooper or post them on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndersonCooper360. We'll have, as I said, Dr. Gupta and Dr. Carlos De Rio to give you the answers ahead.
Also ahead tonight, the low-flying plane and jet fighter that caused high anxiety among New Yorkers yesterday angered an awful lot of people. Tonight we know how much this stunt cost you. Brace yourself, taxpayers. That story is coming up.
And an up-close look at Michelle Obama's first 100 days in office; from vegetable gardens, mothering Sasha and Malia. What she has tried to accomplish so far.
COOPER: Updating our breaking news for you. The Centers for Disease Control tonight warning that flu deaths are likely in America as the outbreak that apparently started in Mexico spreads across this country and, frankly, across the world.
Late word tonight that another seven people have now died in Mexico, bringing the number of suspected flu deaths there to 159. That's according to Mexican health officials, who also raised the number of suspected cases in hospitals to just shy of 2,500. Again, just getting that information in tonight.
Headlines like that, it's easy to see why a lot of folks are nervous and a lot of people have questions. We're trying not to contribute to the hype over this thing. We're trying to just give you the facts that you need to know.
Fortunately, answers do exist. They're not all scary. And as we said, a dose of knowledge can be very good medicine.
You've been sending us your questions for Drs. Sanjay Gupta and Carlos Del Rio. They join us now.
Sanjay, we've got a lot of questions. Our first question comes from our blog, AC360.com.
Mia wants to know, "How long do you think the outbreak's going to last?"
GUPTA: Gosh, I wish I knew the answer to that question, and I hope that it doesn't last very long. If I had to guess, based on all the experts that I'm talking to, I'd say there's a very good chance this may fizzle over the summer -- fizzle down, that is.
But one thing about these types of viruses, you know: it's the fall and winter months that can become more of a problem for these types of viruses. So even if the summer months sort of die down, I think we have to be extra vigilant come fall and winter for this exact swine flu virus. And that means just following a lot of the same prevention strategies that we've been talking about, Anderson.
COOPER: Dr. Del Rio, you've been down in Mexico. You're consulting with the Mexican government there because of your expertise. What's the end point to this? Is there a time when we can declare victory?
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, ROLLINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, EMORY UNIVERSITY: I think one thing we need to be careful about, as Sanjay said, is declaring victory. Cases are going to go down because of what's being done and because of the summer.
But if we remember what happened in the swine (SIC) flu epidemic of 1918, the same thing happened. And then in the fall and the wintertime, the cases came back with a vengeance. We need to keep our guard up. We need to continue surveillance.
Immunization against seasonal flu is going to be critical. And I think a very important decision that is going to have to be made is whether this strain of swine flu is going to be included in the new vaccine that's going to be produced for the 2009/2010 season.
COOPER: So you're recommending, though, people do get flu vaccination. It's not necessarily going to have an impact on swine flu, but just the general flu, which as we talked about last night, kills you know, some 30,000 to 35,000 people every year.
DEL RIO: Absolutely. I mean, people need to remember that 35,000, 40,000 people each year in this country die as a consequence of seasonal flu. People must get their flu vaccination and I would really encourage people to do that every year.
COOPER: All right. Another question -- this one from a CNN iReporter. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I was wondering if this swine flu outbreak is the same strain that was out in the 1970s and if the vaccine you received in the military would be the same one or similar to the one that would be used for the outbreak today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Dr. Del Rio, what about that? If you had a vaccine back in the '70s, would it still have an impact now?
DEL RIO: No, the outbreak in Fort Detrick was an outbreak; about 200 people contracted swine flu. About 20 or 30 people died. And we need to remember that a vaccine was developed back then, the swine vaccine, which was distributed in this country. And the distribution of vaccine was stopped, because there was an inordinate number of cases of a neurological complication called Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
So no, that vaccine would not work against a strain. It's a different strain. And no, the vaccine will have to be different.
And we have advanced technology, and vaccine production has advanced a lot from what it was in the 1970s. And hopefully, newer technology will be used; better vaccines with less side effects will be produced against this strain.
COOPER: All right. Sanjay got another one from the blog. Maria asks, "Is there a possibility of mandatory swine flu vaccination in the U.S. if one is developed in the foreseeable future?"
GUPTA: We've been down this road before. And my guess is that it probably will not be mandatory for some of the reasons Dr. Del Rio was just talking about.
You know, it takes time to safety test these vaccines. We did get an inordinate amount of complications and side effects the last time there was a sort of national immunization project. So I don't think it's going to be mandatory. And I think they're going to identify high-risk groups and suggest it for other groups. So my guess is no.
COOPER: Dr. Del Rio, this question is from our Twitter page. Brandi wants to know, "Is the swine flu likely to be transmitted easier among college kids, like meningitis?"
DEL RIO: We really don't know a lot yet about the transmissibility of this disease. The mechanism of transmission, which is through respiratory secretion, is similar to what happens with -- with meningitis, with the Neisseria meningitidis. So the mechanism of transmission is the same and potentially could happen.
What happened in New York with the kids in the high school that transmitted to each other would be very similar to what you would see in an outbreak of meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis.
COOPER: Sanjay, we've got another question. Randi Kaye touched on it in her report. But it bears repeating, because it's one of those fundamental questions. I know a lot of people are concerned about it.
Ann Marie wrote on our Facebook page, asking, "How long does the virus live on objects like door handles, tables, computer keyboards, et cetera?"
GUPTA: Anywhere between seconds and up to 48 hours. But you know, it changes if it's been exposed to the sunlight, if it's been irradiated in some way. People are asking me, for example, produce that is sent from Mexico to the United States. You're not going to catch the virus from handling that produce or products, for that matter. So seconds to 48 hours for the most part.
COOPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as well, thank you.
And Dr. Carlos Del Rio, good to have you on again. Appreciate your expertise. Thanks.
DEL RIO: Appreciate being with you. Thank you.
COOPER: The virus causing so much worry tonight around the globe is a new strain of flu. Go to AC360.com to read why one expert thinks this swine flu may be here to stay.
Coming up next, the outbreak is not only making people sick; it's also causing a lot of concern among Americans with relatives and friends in Mexico. They're seeking answers, trying to help their loved ones in Mexico. We'll talk to some of them.
And Michelle Obama's first 100 days in the White House, where she has been, what she's said. We'll let you decide how she has done.
An incredible chase video; hijacked big rig. The owner -- I don't know if you can see him there -- in a white T-shirt clinging to the back of that thing. We'll show you how it all ended. That's our "Shot," coming up.
COOPER: Breaking news tonight on the swine flu outbreak. As reported, confirmed cases on the rise around the globe, but with more than 150 deaths, Mexico remains both the hardest hit and the biggest travel risk.
More than 22 million tourists visit Mexico every year. Roughly 80 percent come from the United States, many of them undoubtedly visiting friends and family.
And as Thelma Gutierrez tells us, concern for their safety is at an all-time high.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At one of the highest rated radio shows in the country, Los Angeles DJ Eddie Sotelo is flooded with calls.
EDDIE SOTELO, RADIO SHOW HOST: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GUTIERREZ: Swine flu is topic number one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GUTIERREZ: Callers here with families in Mexico want answers.
(on camera): Does it ever get overwhelming as a deejay to have somebody call you and say, "I need help"?
SOTELO: This is what we do. We are a great team that is able to right away get information from the Mexican government.
GUTIERREZ (voice-over): In Whittier, California, swine flu is a top concern for seventh grade math teacher Odilia Granado. Not only does she worry about her students here, she also thinks about her 27 relatives over there.
ODILIA GRANADO, MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER: A little bit helpless in the way that, you know, I'm not there.
GUTIERREZ: Granado says she talks to her brother every day. He told her they're staying indoors, that masks are hard to come by. So Granado and family want to do what they can for people 1,500 miles away. They bought 120 masks to send to Mexico.
GRANADO: We're trying to tell them that -- not to panic.
GUTIERREZ: Maria Elena Garcia Villalobos, a national news reporter for Azteca America in Glendale, California, has been covering the epidemic. As a journalist, she says the swine flu is the biggest story she's worked on so far this year.
MARIA ELENA GARCIA VILLALOBOS, NEWS REPORTER: All these five live in Mexico.
GUTIERREZ: It's also the biggest thing to impact her family on both sides of the border.
VILLALOBOS: We talk, like, two or three times per day. My sister called me yesterday and she said, "I let my little kid go to bike around (ph). Do you think that's bad?"
I'm, like, "No, I don't."
GUTIERREZ: But inside she says she does worry, especially for her parents.
VILLALOBOS: My mom told me she went to the supermarket. And she said, "You know what? There's nothing, you know." She couldn't find bottled water.
GUTIERREZ: Or masks either. So her mother started making them: 70, she says, for people who need them.
Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.
COOPER: A lot of concern out there; a lot of concern on the live chat right now at AC360.com. Join in if you want to talk to other viewers and then Erica and myself. Also Erica's live Web casts happening during the commercial breaks tonight.
Still ahead, Michelle Obama's first 100 days. From goodwill ambassador to style icon, how the first lady's making her mark on the White House and beyond.
Also tonight, more fallout from that Air Force flyover that left a lot of New Yorkers in panic. You see it right there. President Obama orders an internal review as we get the first estimate of just how much this whole thing cost. It cost you, the taxpayer, of course.
Also, a big rig was stolen, hijacked in Atlanta with a man hanging on for dear life. You won't believe how he escaped. It's "The Shot" tonight.
COOPER: Tonight the president and the first family as you haven't seen them before. Pictures released today by the White House.
From dancing at the Governor's Ball, kicking back with friends in the White House movie theater, looking through 3-D glasses there -- that's a funny picture -- to the president's first day in the Oval Office. These are all photos just released by the White House today. And the first lady here sledding with daughters Malia and Sasha on the White House lawn.
Today at the Capitol, Mrs. Obama unveiled a statue of abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the first black woman to receive the honor, another groundbreaking moment in the first 100 days, Michelle Obama style.
Tom Foreman takes a look back.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From inauguration night through 100 days, the public's assessment of Michelle Obama has been so strong, at least one poll gives her a higher rating than her husband. A glamorous woman, a goodwill ambassador, and a sensible mom.
M. OBAMA: My name is Michelle Obama.
FOREMAN: She's introduced herself to presidential politics so well, even potential critics are saluting.
SABRINA SCHAEFFER, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: Pretty good.
FOREMAN: Sabrina Schaeffer is with the Independent Women's Forum, a nonprofit conservative policy group.
SCHAEFFER: I think she does have a delicate balance to fit between, you know, "I am an intelligent woman who's been successful in my own right. And I also happen to be an attractive woman. I also happen to be married to the president." So it's a lot to balance.
FOREMAN (on camera): But you think she's hit it pretty well?
SCHAEFFER: I do think she's hit it pretty well.
M. OBAMA: Military families have done their duty, and we as a grateful nation must do ours.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The first lady has struck that balance by sometimes helping with the serious business of her husband's job and sometimes tending her own garden to great effect, whether taking on a toy company for cashing in on her daughters' fame, wrestling with the new dog...
M. OBAMA: He loves to chew on people's feet.
FOREMAN: ... or playing role model for millions.
M. OBAMA: I think it's real important for young kids, particularly kids who come from communities without resources, to see me, not the first lady, but to see that there is no magic to me sitting here.
FOREMAN: But even as she tends to public business, in private, the president's staff knows she has become ever more valuable.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will tell you, our goal was to get first lady-type approval numbers.
FOREMAN: And for a very popular president, that's saying something.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: There you go.
Another reminder: tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern, a CNN primetime event, "100 Days of the Obama Presidency." It's an entire evening with all our CNN analysts. Our CNN National Report Card will give you a chance to grade the president and Congress on the job they've done so far. You can actually grade along with people like David Gergen and Ed Rollins and all the folks we'll assemble tomorrow night, starting at 7:00.
Now some of the other stories we're following tonight. Erica Hill has the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, at least four people were killed, dozens injured in a tour bus crash in central California. That accident happened about 70 miles from San Jose. It shut down Highway 101 for more than two hours. There is no word yet on the cause.
President Obama ordering an internal review of that Air Force flyover of Lower Manhattan that left many New Yorkers in a panic. Senator John McCain, a member of the armed services committee, is also asking for answers, including just how much that flyover cost. According to early estimates, the total could top $328,000.
Stocks ending a choppy session: mildly lower, slightly, if you can even call it that, but a stronger-than-expected report on consumer confidence, basically, a flat day. The Dow down just eight points, the NASDAQ off 6, the S&P down 2.
And in the Congo, undercover agents rescue a baby gorilla hidden in the bottom of a suspected smuggler's bag. The gorilla was dehydrated, malnourished and had injuries, but is actually said to be responding to treatment. The rescue capped off a three-month undercover investigation into animal trafficking.
COOPER: Unbelievable. That's so great they got him.
All right. Time now for our "Beat 360" winners: our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one that any of us around here can come up with for a photo that we put on the blog every day.
So tonight's picture: President Obama holding up two teddy bears, given to him by FBI director Robert Mueller as gifts for daughters Sasha and Malia.
The staff winner tonight is Jill. Her caption: "Say hello to my little friends."
I don't know. I was supposed to do that with an accent.
HILL: I think you should. Come on. Bring out your inner Scarface, Anderson. It's just itching to come back.
COOPER: I don't do Tony Montana very well.
HILL: It's Montah-na.
COOPER: Oh, is it?
HILL: Yes, Tony Montah-na.
COOPER: I've watched the movie a million times. It's Montah-na? Really? I don't know.
COOPER: Our viewer winner is John from Stockton, California. His caption: "When President Obama's teleprompter malfunctions, to keep the attention of the audience, he goes into his rarely-seen teddy bear hand puppet show."
I like that one, it's funny. John congratulations. Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.
Up next, an incredible chase. You know, I don't understand why people think they can get away from the police on the highway.
HILL: They do it every time.
COOPER: One man hijacks a big rig. The driver is actually stuck on the back of the truck. You can see him there in the white T-shirt, hanging on for dear life. We'll show you what happened next.
COOPER: Erica, for tonight's "Shot," a police chase to remember. It had the 360 newsroom glued to the TV and probably a lot of folks around the country.
This is not your ordinary pursuit. In Georgia a man stole this tractor trailer cab from a parking lot, sped off, the truck's driver hanging on for dear life in the back. You can kind of make him out there. We'll probably zoom in there and get a closer shot.
Police used spike strips to slow down the rig, which gave the driver a chance to jump off his own cab. So he escaped.
COOPER: Yes. He was OK, though. You see him slamming onto the roadway. Incredible video.
HILL: He's on the highway, too. I mean, I know the police sort of helped control traffic a little, but still.
COOPER: I know. Then the crippled truck basically sputtered to a stop. The suspect wasn't going anywhere, surrounded by a small army of armed officers. Yanked from his seat after struggling, he was subdued, arrested, and there he goes.
HILL: There he goes. It is amazing that they always -- that so many people still choose -- they think they can outrun the cops.
COOPER: It's just so stupid.
HILL: I think I asked somebody about this once while covering many a car chase. And they said to me -- what's actually interesting is more times than you realize, people do get away.
HILL: Because there can be, in certain instances, such a danger to the community.
COOPER: OK. I see.
HILL: But not always.
HILL: But don't try it.
COOPER: Don't try that at home.
You can see all the "Shots" at the Web site, AC360.com.
Hey, that does it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts now.
I'll see you tomorrow night.