City, schools prepared as swine flu arrives in King County

April 30, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

UPDATED — 9:15 a.m. May 1, 2009

Ten probable cases of swine flu have been identified in King County, public health officials said today.

Public Health – Seattle & King County spokeswoman Megan Coppersmith outlined seven new probable cases.

The cases include a woman in her 20s, four children ages 8-12, and two other children whose mother was previously reported as a probable case.

The cases announced Wednesday include three Seattle residents: a man in his 20s, a woman in her 30s and a boy who is a student at Madrona K-8.

Officials said the Madrona student is hospitalized and his condition is improving. Seattle School District officials closed Madrona K-8 this morning as a precautionary measure. The other people are not hospitalized and their conditions are improving.

Coppersmith said the infected people reside in King County, but did not have additional details. She said none of the reported cases are serious.

“These symptoms appear to be pretty mild,” she said.

Snohomish County reported two swine flu cases and Spokane County has reported a single case.

Laboratory samples from the King County cases have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local public health officials are awaiting final confirmation.

No cases have been reported on the Eastside or in Issaquah.

Autumn Monahan, city public information officer, said officials are prepared for possible swine flu cases.

“In case of a pandemic, City Hall is reviewing our plans to ensure that our critical operations can stay running,” she said.

City officials participated in a pandemic flu preparation exercise in September 2006. The event, conducted by the Seattle-King County public health agency and the University of Washington, helped officials plan for a flu emergency.

Monahan said city officials are monitoring the situation. As part of the outreach effort, Monahan included a link to swine flu information on the city’s Web site.

“We’re urging people to stay aware for any potential updates,” she said.

Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen sent an e-mail to families this morning detailing efforts to prevent swine flu infections.

“We are in regular contact with health officials; school nurses have been advising staff and students about practices to stop the spread of viruses; as in all high-flu seasons, custodians are being extra vigilant about cleaning and sanitizing facilities thoroughly; administrators are reviewing pandemic illness procedures; and, in the event of any incidents of concern at a school building, we will immediately contact Seattle and King County public health and follow health experts’ advice about how to best proceed,” he wrote.

District flu information is available here.

Swine flu symptoms include a fever of more than 100 degrees, coughing, joint aches and severe headache. Diarrhea and vomiting are present in some cases.

King County and public health officials recommended common sense measures – such as hand washing – to prevent additional flu cases. They encouraged residents to check the county’s swine flu Web site for frequent updates.

“Now that swine flu is likely in King County, we expect to see more infections, but it’s too early to say how severe the illnesses will be,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a news release. “We are working to provide needed information and assistance to these people and their families. We are also working with healthcare providers and community partners to prepare in the event that the situation becomes more serious.”

Swine flu questions and tips

What is swine flu?

Swine flu is an influenza A virus normally found in pigs. There are many such viruses and they rarely infect humans. The virus causing human illness is a new type of swine flu that has developed the ability to infect people and be transmitted from person to person.

Although this new virus is called “swine flu,” it is not transmitted from pigs to humans, or from eating pork products. Like other respiratory diseases, it is spread from person to person, through coughs and sneezes. When people cough or sneeze, they spread germs through the air or onto surfaces that other people may touch.

When should you seek medical care?

Use the same judgment you would use during a typical flu season. Do not seek medical care if you are not ill or have mild symptoms for which you would not ordinarily seek medical care. If you have more severe symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, body aches or are feeling more seriously ill, call your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms and whether you need to be evaluated.

Public health officials will continue to work with healthcare providers to test flu patients who develop severe illness or are associated with clusters, but do not currently recommend testing for all flu patients.

If the following flu-like symptoms are mild, medical attention is not typically required: runny nose or nasal stuffiness; low-grade fever for less than three days; mild headache; body aches and mild stomach upset.

Everyday behaviors to stay healthy

If you are sick, stay home from work or school.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

To further prevent the spread of germs, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Avoid close contact with sick people.

Source: Public Health – Seattle & King County

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