WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama mourned the first U.S. swine flu death, a Mexican toddler in Texas, and said Wednesday wider school closings in the United States may be necessary. Total U.S. cases surged to 91.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was questioned closely by senators at a hearing in Washington about whether the U.S. should close its border with Mexico, where the outbreak apparently began and the casualties have been the greatest.
She repeated the administration's position that "passive surveillance" of U.S. land and seaports was sufficient for now and said closing borders "has not been merited by the facts."
Still, she said the disease has spread to four more states and 91 cases now have been confirmed.
In a possible outbreak north of the Mexican border, the commandant of the Marine Corps said a marine lieutenant in southern California might have the illness and 39 marines were being confined at the Twentynine Palms base until tests come back.
In Washington, Obama said he wanted to extend "my thoughts and prayers" to the family of a nearly two-year-old Mexican boy who died in Houston, the first confirmed U.S. fatality.
Health officials in Texas said the child had travelled with his family from Mexico, to Brownsville on April 4 and was brought to Houston after becoming ill. He died Monday night.
"This is obviously a serious situation," and "we are closely and continuously monitoring" it, Obama said of the spreading illness.