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The swine flu virus that has sparked fear and precautions worldwide appears to be no more dangerous than the regular flu virus that makes its rounds each year, U.S. officials said Monday.

"What the epidemiologists are seeing now with this particular strain of U.N. is that the severity of the disease, the severity of the flu -- how sick you get -- is not stronger than regular seasonal flu," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday as the worldwide number of confirmed cases of swine flu -- technically known as 2009 H1N1 virus -- topped 1,080.

The flu has been blamed for 26 deaths: 25 in Mexico and one in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.

Still, Napolitano noted, the seasonal flu results in "hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations" and roughly 35,000 fatalities each year in the United States. There are still concerns that the virus could return in the fall, in the typical flu season, as a stronger strain.

"We are cautiously optimistic that this particular strain will not be more severe than a normal seasonal flu outbreak," Napolitano said. Watch Napolitano assess the swine flu risk Read full article »

CNN's Karl Penhaul in Mexico City, John Vause in Beijing, Diana Magnay in Geneva and Pauline Choo in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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