ORIGINAL 8:52 PM REPORT: Hours after county health experts briefed the Seattle City Council, saying there were no known swine-flu cases here, they have announced three “probable” cases – here’s a news release we just received:
Today, three probable cases of swine influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, have been identified in King County. The laboratory samples have been sent to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Public Health – Seattle & King County is awaiting final confirmation.
The CDC has determined that the swine flu virus H1N1 is contagious and is spreading from human to human. Symptoms of swine flu include a fever of more than 100°F, coughing, joint aches, severe headache and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.
“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. We are working to provide needed information and assistance to these people and their families. We are also working with health care providers and community partners to prepare in the event that the situation becomes more serious,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“We’ve prepared for this day for the past four years, and now we must all do our part to reduce its spread,” said Ron Sims, King County Executive. “We encourage everyone to get prepared at home, find out about plans at your job, and take steps to protect yourself, your family and the community by staying home when you are sick, washing your hands often and covering your coughs and sneezes.”
“In the last few years, Seattle has prepared for pandemic flu. We will activate our Emergency Operations Center at the first level so our emergency operations personnel can coordinate procedures and communications,” said Greg Nickels, Seattle Mayor.
As of today, April 29, there are three probable cases of swine flu in King County, in addition to two cases in Snohomish County and one case in Spokane County.
The three King County residents with probable swine flu include:
o a male child of Seattle who was hospitalized and is improving
o a male in his 20s from Seattle, not hospitalized and improving
o a woman in her 30s from Seattle, not hospitalized and improving
Human cases of swine influenza virus infection also have been identified nationally and internationally.
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 health care provider to discuss your symptoms and if you need to be evaluated.
Public Health will continue to work with health care providers to test flu patients who develop severe illness or are associated with clusters, but does 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 3 days; mild headache; body aches and mild stomach upset.
What can I do now to get prepared?
This is an excellent time to get prepared at home and work for a possible influenza pandemic. See www.kingcounty.gov/health/swineflu
Everyday behaviors to stay healthy
o If you are sick, stay home from work or school.
o Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
o 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.
o To further prevent the spread of germs, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
o Avoid close contact with sick people
What is swine flu?
“Swine flu” is an influenza A (H1N1) virus normally found in pigs. There are many such viruses and they rarely infect humans. The virus currently 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.
For more information and frequent updates: www.kingcounty.gov/health/swineflu
Public Health Hotline: 206-296-4949
We have a message out to the Health Department to ask if they can or will be any more specific about what part of the city the Seattle patients are from. (9:18 pm addition: KING5 says one case is an 11-year-old Madrona Elementary student.) But we do want to reiterate one thing that we heard in the briefing on which we reported earlier today: Most of the U.S. cases so far have been fairly mild. This is NOT necessarily an automatically deadly/severe illness. Take the steps that authorities are counseling – but don’t panic. The county’s official swine-flu information page is here.
9:47 PM UPDATE: Also wrote this in comments – Just talked to James Apa with King County Public Health. Beyond the information about the child, which they provided because of the school aspect of the story, he says they are not going “lower than city level” in terms of descriptive information about the two patients – trying to balance privacy with public information. So for now, unless the two patients or someone close to them decides to independently inform a media outlet, there is NO info publicly available on where they are from. Also note, Seattle Public Schools is making recorded phone calls to ALL district families to let them know about the Madrona case and to reiterate that schools are open, no changes at this point – several people in comments, and on Twitter (@westseattleblog) and Facebook (WS Blog), have already reported getting those calls.
9:58 PM UPDATE: County Councilmember Julia Patterson, who chairs the county Board of Health, just sent this statement:
“Now is not the time to panic, but to use every day common sense precautions, like washing your hands regularly, covering your cough, and staying home from school or work when you are sick.
“Our public health department is one of the most prepared in the nation. They have prepared for the most severe form of this influenza, even though the cases thus far are more mild.
“I am confident that they are making every effort to reduce the spread, by educating those infected or at risk, and by keeping residents informed and protected.”
And minutes after that, a news release with a statement from West Seattle-residing County Council Chair Dow Constantine:
Metropolitan King County Council Chair Dow Constantine was present at tonight’s briefing on the suspected local swine flu cases, and has this statement:
“I’ve been briefed tonight by Public Health and I am impressed with their swift action to identify and report these suspected local cases of swine flu to the CDC for confirmation. We were briefed Monday on their plans for heightened monitoring and we are now seeing the results of that work.
“We have one of the finest public health agencies in the nation, with whom we have been making plans for an event such as this since 2006. The plans are good and I’m confident they will be well-executed.
“The best way we can all minimize the spread of infection now is by ensuring we have an educated and prepared public.”
11:14 PM UPDATE: One comment asks about how these people might have gotten the virus, if indeed they have it. That information has not been released. One is a doctor, said to have possibly seen patients on one day while she might have been contagious, and they will be notified.