STAMFORD - Stamford Hospital issued a high awareness alert Sunday for swine flu after eight cases of the disease were reported in New York.

The hospital followed suit after the federal government declared a public health emergency. Gov. Jodi Rell ordered the Connecticut Health Department to monitor the situation closely.

Stamford Hospital's Director of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Michael Parry, says health officials around the United States are researching the spread of swine flu to educate Americans. Parry says people should carefully wash their hands with warm soapy water frequently and use hand sanitizer after coming in contact with the public.

"The data from Mexico would suggest that it is a very aggressive strain and that it can cause some degree of mortality and hospitalization," Parry says.

Officials confirmed that the cases of swine flu in New York are the same strain of the virus found in Mexico. According to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, all of the New York cases of the flu are mild and those affected are recovering. Officials believe students who traveled to Cancun for spring break came into contact with the flu.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A flu viruses, the CDC's Web site says. Human cases are uncommon but can occur in people who are around pigs. It also can be spread from person to person. Symptoms include a high fever, body aches, coughing, sore throat and respiratory congestion.