- - Saturday, October 24, 2009

Swine flu deaths more than 1,000 in U.S.

ATLANTA — Federal health officials say swine flu is more widespread now than it’s ever been and has resulted in more than 1,000 deaths so far in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday there is as much illness now as in the winter peak of regular flu seasons.

Public demand for the new swine flu vaccine has caused long lines and frustration in several parts of the country. But worries about flu have also prompted record interest in seasonal flu vaccine as well. About 60 million people have been vaccinated, an unprecedented number for October. Most seasonal flu shots usually aren’t given until later in the fall.

CDC officials said nearly 100 pediatric swine flu deaths have been reported.

In a separate statement Friday, the World Health Organization reported more than 414,000 laboratory confirmed cases of H1N1 worldwide, with nearly 5,000 deaths.

In the U.S., 46 states now have widespread flu activity. The only states without widespread flu are Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and South Carolina.

There are at least two different types of flu causing illnesses; tests from about 5,000 patients suggest that nearly all the flu cases are swine flu.

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine won’t protect against swine flu; a separate swine flu vaccine is needed. Vaccine production takes several months, and the work on seasonal vaccine was already well under way when swine flu was first identified in April. It was too late for the swine flu virus to be included in the seasonal doses.

Because of swine flu production delays, the government has backed off initial, optimistic estimates that as many as 120 million vaccine doses would be available by mid-October. As of Wednesday, only 11 million doses had been shipped to health departments, doctors’ offices and other providers across the country, CDC officials said.

“It’s frustrating to all of us. We wish there were more vaccine available,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said.

Priest found slain in church rectory

CHATHAM, N.J. — A Catholic priest was found slain Friday morning in his clerical robes in the rectory of his northern New Jersey parish.

Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi would not say how the Rev. Ed Hinds, 61, was killed, but he said the body had wounds “consistent with a homicide.” No one has been arrested.

Father Hinds’ body, dressed in vestments, was found around 8 a.m. Friday in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Church in Chatham, a New York City bedroom community, after he didn’t show up to celebrate morning Mass.

He was last seen alive around 11 p.m. Thursday after a safety seminar held by police at the church in which they fingerprinted and photographed young children.

Mexican drug kingpin pleads guilty in U.S.

DENVER — A Mexican drug kingpin who led a fearsome cartel for more than a decade has pleaded guilty to U.S. drug and racketeering charges.

Miguel Angel Caro Quintero, 46, pleaded guilty in Denver federal court Friday to one count of racketeering in Colorado and one county of conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Arizona. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Prosecutors said Caro Quintero led the Sonora Cartel, which smuggled thousands of tons of marijuana and cocaine from Mexico to the United States in the 1980s.

Caro Quintero’s brother, Rafael Caro Quintero, played a role in the 1985 torture-slaying of undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena Salazar. Rafael Caro Quintero is in prison in Mexico.

Park chief rapped for explicit images

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park told a newspaper he is being reassigned because Interior Department investigators discovered he had used his federal computer to view sexually explicit images.

John Latschar will begin work Monday at the Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Md., as a special assistant to the National Park Service’s associate director for cultural resources.

Park Service spokesman David Barna would not say why Mr. Latschar had been reassigned, calling it a personnel issue, but Mr. Latschar told the Evening Sun of Hanover he is being reassigned because of his misuse of the federal computer.

Mr. Latschar told the newspaper that “there’s no excuse” for his behavior. He said he was “going through some rough personal and professional times” from 2004 to 2006, when he used his computer to search online for the images, which he said were like those found in a Playboy magazine.

Wild otters freed into river

ALONG THE RIO PUEBLO DE TAOS, N.M. — Six river otters from the Pacific Northwest have been released into the ice-cold water of a river in northern New Mexico as part of an effort to return the mammals to their historic range.

The wild otters were trapped in Washington state and transported to New Mexico, where they were checked out by state game officials before Friday’s early morning release. They will join 10 other otters that were released in the Rio Pueblo de Taos last October.

The Bureau of Land Management, Taos Pueblo, the state Game and Fish Department and several conservation groups have been working to get the otters back into New Mexico’s rivers.

Otters disappeared from New Mexico more than a half-century ago after decades of trapping and habitat loss.

From wire dispatches and staff reports