Local Swine flu scare settled

<I>Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain</I><BR>Health experts recommend plenty of fluids, washing hands frequently, treating symptoms, calling your doctor before going into his office so as to prevent the spread of the flu.

State public health director Mel Kohn, M.D. confirmed 17 cases of H1N1 (Swine Flu) in the state Monday. An earlier report that listed 19 new "probable" cases had included one case in Wallowa County, but that case has been definitively ruled out.

Of the cases, only two required hospitalization, Kohn said. One was a young child with other health issues and one was a young teen girl. The teen was ill enough to be admitted to intensive care but is reported as doing well.

Initially all suspected cases were tested at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory in Hillsboro. From there, the approximately 200 tests were sent on for confirmation with the Centers for Disease Control Laboratory in Atlanta, Geo. As of Monday the Hillsboro lab had "proved up" sufficiently that they will now be able to issue reports confirming or eliminating cases of suspected H1N1 flu without waiting for a second confirmation from CDC. The Hillsboro lab is testing approximately 60 to 70 specimens a day.

"We will still send some tests to the CDC lab in Atlanta, simply for quality control," said Patricia Feeny, spokesperson for Oregon Department of Human Services. "The good news is that we will now have a one-day turnaround in testing from our Oregon lab."

Of the confirmed cases six are in Multnomah County, four in Lane, four in Polk, one in Umatilla and two in Washington County. Adults and children alike are infected with nine adults, four children and four teens on the list. There are nine males and eight females.

Because children have been infected, the issue of school closures will continue to be active, Kohn said. "Local health departments are doing their own investigations and consulting with school districts," he said.

Enterprise School Superintendent Brad Royse said that the schools received daily updates and information from the state and felt well prepared. "We've got the usual bug going around but as far as I know, not the swine flu," he said. "We'll be working with the county health department if we do have an outbreak."

Laina Fisher administrator for the Wallowa County Health Department said that it would require a confirmed case to close a school and that decision would be as a result of an individual police for each school.

The same sort of "bug" was responsible for the recent closure of the Wallowa Memorial Hospital Cafeteria, said Hospital Administrator Dave Harman.

"We've not had any swine flu at the hospital that we are aware of," he said. "We had a lot of people in the county ill with a Norwalk-like virus a very bad gastrointestinal but, we didn't have any fatalities but we had quite a few people admitted because of it. Since it is airborne, we used masks and closed the cafeteria. But that bug appears to be on the wane."

He assured the public that the hospital had excellent infection control procedures in place adding that so far H1N1 had not shown itself to be any more virulent than other kinds of flu. "As far as I've been informed, there is no cause for panic, and just normal procedures should be taken. If you are sick, stay home."

All agencies cautioned that anyone who has visited an area with known H1N1 infection and then becomes ill within seven days should call in to their doctor before going into the office.

Call into your doctor before you go in for any instructions about not spreading disease at the doctor's office.

This procedure was used in the one Wallowa County suspected case. Laina Fisher, administrator for the Wallowa County Health Department said that the Wallowa case was handled ideally. Doctor Rene Grandi called Wallowa County Health Department immediately when a patient who had been traveling in an area where confirmed cases had been identified exhibited symptoms. To protect against possible spread of infection Wallowa County Health communicable disease nurse, Janie McArtor, went to the patient's home to do the testing. The test was then sent by Wallowa Memorial Hospital to the Oregon Department of Health's Hillsboro Lab and from there to the Centers for Disease Control where it was found not to be the N1H1 flu.

State public health director Kohn would make no predictions about how quickly the flu was expected to spread or how serious the infections could be. Currently, however, most people infected are doing well at home.

He did say he expected to see more people infected with flu since this was a new strain. Incubation time from exposure to illness is typically one day, he said, although some onsets may be as much as seven days after exposure.

Oregon has already received its first shipment of antiviral medications and respiratory protection equipment from the Centers for Disease Control's Division of the Strategic National Stockpile to treat and protect citizens during the H1N1 flu outbreak. However, the public is being asked to take ordinary precautions including covering their mouth with something other than their hand if they cough or sneeze, washing hands frequently and quitting smoking.

Frequently updated information on the progression of the flu in Oregon is posted at (www.flu.Oregon.gov).

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