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Swine Flu Spreads in NY but Officials Say Budget Cuts Won't Harm Response

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-834738.mp3

Albany, NY – Chautuaqua county appears to be another site for the spread of Swine Flu in the state. State officials said Thursday they have tested as probable two earlier suspected cases from Chautuaqua. Three other additional cases outside New York City have also tested as probable. The Centers for Disease Control must confirm the cases before they can be classified as positive.

Three other cases were listed as probable on Wednesday. That brings to eight the total number of new cases in the state currently being evaluated by the CDC. State officials said this year's deep budget cuts will not effect the state's ability to respond to the Swine Flu outbreak.

As of Wednesday, there were 75 suspected cases of Swine Flu statewide. That number, as well as the number of confirmed cases is expected to grow. For every suspected case, there is a sample that must be tested. For every confirmed case, there is anti-viral medicine that must be administered.

And state manpower is needed to monitor the escalating threat.

But that manpower could be cut short when it is needed most. The budget calls for nearly 9,000 lay-offs state wide. State Health Commissioner Richard Daines said he's not worried.

"Those have not gone into effect yet," said Daines. "The department has had all the resources we've needed to do this."

Governor David Paterson backed up Daines' remarks. Paterson said the priority is doing whatever is necessary to deal with the potential flu pandemic. And, despite pending job cuts, he said the budget actually offers some protections.

"The one thing that this situation probably exemplifies, that we did address in the budget, is the need for greater primary care," said Paterson.

Paterson said in order to do that, and balance the budget, drastic steps were needed. He said that included the personal income tax and the pending lay-offs. Paterson called them both abhorent. But he said unless the unions are willing to truly negotiate, there is no other alternative.

Those lay-offs - that would impact all state departments, including the Health department - are set to take effect on July 1.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.