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Minnesota investigates 8 more probable cases of swine flu

ST. PAUL - Some Minnesotans expressed concern about whether migrant workers' families are more susceptible to swine flu, even before nine probable state cases were reported.

One case has been confirmed. State officials announced eight more probable cases Friday, and authorities said they are checking whether at least one of the latest victims had contact with anyone who had been to Mexico.

The flu's apparent Mexican origin led some southwestern Minnesota residents to contact school superintendents earlier this week, wondering if migrant workers' children are more likely to carry the illness, said Charlie Kyte of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

Health officials said there is no evidence suggesting a segment of the population, such as Mexicans, is any more susceptible to the flu strain.

"There is no reason to believe those communities are at higher risk," Buddy Ferguson of the state Health Department said of Minnesota cities with a large Mexican population.

State officials announced the second probable case Friday morning, in Isanti, followed by seven more cases late Friday.

The department sent laboratory samples from eight victims to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. The victims, all of whom are recovering, are from the following counties: Isanti, Dakota, Wright, Polk, Scott and Hennepin.

The state lab tested the samples, which appeared to indicate the new flu, but the federal facility in Atlanta must confirm it. Results may come this weekend.

The first confirmed Minnesota swine flu victim had ties to a Cold Spring middle school in central Minnesota. That victim, who also did not require hospitalization, had contact with someone who had visited Mexico.

The Health Department said late Friday "the widespread nature of the cases implies that the novel virus appears to be acting like seasonal influenza."

There are roughly 147,000 Mexicans living in Minnesota, according to 2008 figures provided by the state's Chicano Latino Affairs Council. The population tends to be in clusters in the Twin Cities and other regional centers, including Worthington, Willmar and Moorhead.

"It is concerning, but at this point it's something that is affecting all communities, regardless of ethnic heritage," said Rogelio Munoz, Chicano Latino Affairs Council executive director.

Munoz said his group is aware of no special concerns about migrant workers in Minnesota. Most of Minnesota's migrant workers, who work in agriculture and construction, are from states in the Southwest, not Mexico, he said.

As of Friday evening, Minnesota health officials had tested 229 samples from people with flu symptoms, with more than 110 left to be checked.

A Minnesota Health Department H1N1 swine flu hotline for the public to ask questions is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, at (800) 657-3903.

Forum Capitol Bureau reporter Don Davis contributed to this report.