Though there had been no confirmed cases in Wallowa County as of early this week, one local doctor estimated her clinic has already seen 100 suspected cases of H1N1 influenza.
"We have full-bore swine flu in Wallowa County," Renee Grandi, M.D., of Winding Waters Clinic said without equivocation Monday, Oct. 19.
She said five patients - three teenagers and two younger children in the 4 and 5-year-old age bracket - were hospitalized and their samples have been sent off to the Oregon Public Health lab for testing. They were in the hospital for complications ranging from pneumonia to dehydration, and "are all doing just fine," Grandi said.
While only hospitalized patients will be tested for a specific strain of flu by the state lab for official statistics, a rapid test is available that has been positive for influenza in general and Grandi has no doubt that it is swine flu she is treating.
She said according to the national Centers for Disease Control it is the only type that is circulating at present. "Seasonal flu isn't going around right now," she said.
According to Grandi, the symptoms are about the same: "a headache that feels like you've been hit by a Mack truck, sore throat, a high fever (102-103 degrees F), coughing, body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea."
One difference between recent cases and in past years has been the age of patients. "Most of them have been younger," Grandi said.
While H1N1 is not considered any more serious than seasonal flu, it is thought to be more easily communicable and to target children and younger adults rather than the elderly. In the past couple of weeks, reports of swine flu have been escalating at very rapid rate.
According to the state's www.flu.or.gov website, there have been 239 hospitalized patients with influenza and six deaths statewide in Oregon since Sept. 1. "The pandemic influenza A (H1N1) situation continues to evolve on a daily basis and these numbers are provisional," the weekly influenza surveillance report stated Monday. As of that date, there were no cases listed for Wallowa County.
"We've had flu cases in the county. They are being tested
FLU from A1
at the state lab to seeif they are swine flu," confirmed Tracy Frye, infection control officer at Wallowa Memorial Hospital. She said the state lab is not taking test samples from outpatients, only hospitalized patients.
The Wallowa County Health Department has received some H1N1 vaccine, which is in limited supply throughout the nation so far, but expects it to be used up this week at clinics planned at county schools.
"All we have available is the mist," said Jane McArtor, registered nurse with the health department, Monday morning, referring to the live nasal vaccine. She said the 160 doses on hand would probably be used up for children and youths during no-charge clinics scheduled Wednesday and Thursday this week, starting in Wallowa. "I know Wallowa has been hit the hardest," she said.
Only students with permission slips signed by parents were to be vaccinated.
McArtor said that the department had received a limited number of injectable H1N1 vaccine, but those doses had been distributed to clinics for those in the high risk group, such as pregnant women, who are unable to use the live nasal vaccine.
The health department also reports a shortage of regular seasonal vaccine at present, and McArtor said they have been referring people to the Safeway pharmacy. Local Safeway pharmacist Koreen Sanders said Monday that the store had 149 doses on hand and doesn't expect to get anymore. "It's going quickly," she said, estimating the pharmacy has been dispensing about 20 seasonal flu shots a week. Those who want an inoculation are asked to just join the regular pharmacy line and wait their turn. "We don't have any H1N1 vaccine," Sanders said.
McArtor said there is a question-and-answer information sheet available at the health department for anyone with questions or concerns about the vaccine. She said the department hopes to receive more flu vaccine of both kinds by Nov. 1.
There has been a fairly high rate of absenteeism because of illness with cold and flu symptoms at Wallowa County schools, especially Wallowa High School, which reported 32 absences out of 130 students in grades 6 through 12 Monday, Oct. 19, including two sent home that morning. In Wallowa's tiny freshman class, seven out of 11 students were home sick. However, school superintendent Bob Sisk reported only 10 students gone out of the elementary school, better than last week. So far there are no plans to close school.
"Unless we get a preponderance of kids out, and especially teachers that we can't cover with substitutes, we'll stay open," Sisk said.
Other schools in the county seemed to be faring better, though 24 were home sick at the beginning of the week from Enterprise's 7-12th grades. "We usually get waves of sickness every year or two, though this one has come a little earlier than usual," Enterprise High School principal Blake Carlsen said.
To prevent the further spread of H1N1 - as well as colds and seasonal flu - the advise from all quarters is the same - stay home from school or work if you are sick. The health department advises parents to keep their children home during illness at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever.
More information: 426-4848, Wallowa County Health Department, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.,Monday through Thursday; or 1-800-CDC-INFO, hotline for CDC.