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Border Disease Surveillance Program Beefs up for Swine Flu

Above: Pedestrians stand in line at the United States-Mexico border while wearing a surgical masks at the Port of Entry on April 27, 2009 in Tijuana, Mexico.

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Above: Reporter Amy Isackson speaks with Gloria Penner about plans to screen all vehicles entering Mexico from San Diego this fall. Local editors react to the plan.

An infectious disease surveillance program along the U.S. Mexico border is expanding to better monitor the H1N1 virus. It's the program that confirmed the first two cases of swine flu in the U.S. last spring.

The border program collects specimens from a network of about a dozen clinics dotted along the U.S. Mexico border to monitor disease.

The H1N1 virus is the major focus.

Stephen Waterman is the epidemiologist that runs the program. He says Tijuana and Mexicali General Hospitals will send specimens to the border test site in San Diego this fall, in addition to a Baja California lab.

"Measuring the impact of severe illness in hospitalized patients or even death is going to be important for planning use of hospital facilities as well as monitoring the effectiveness of our prevention efforts."

Waterman says the border program has gotten some extra resources since last spring to set up new testing sites.

He says the fact the initial H1N1 outbreak was picked up along the border has brought additional attention to the importance of efforts in this area.

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