Toplines from King County Council’s swine-flu briefing (and more)

April 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm | In West Seattle news | 14 Comments

As King County Council Chair Dow Constantine put it at the end of the council briefing that just ended, the information presented by county public-health managers was “reassuring.” NO swine-flu infections reported in the county, so in response to the question “What should people here do?” there was only one answer: Stay informed. It was also noted, as you may have read in national/international reports, this is not an automatically grave illness — some who’ve gotten it elsewhere may have been “asymptomatic.” Also, in terms of what’s being used to treat it, Tamiflu can be used, and it’s stockpiled. So the admonition between the lines, throughout the briefing, was: Don’t panic. (It was also noted, regular flu kills 35,000 people nationwide every year, so even a flu death would not necessarily be cause for panic.) As for that advice to “stay informed” – the latest nationwide info is always available at this Centers for Disease Control page (40 cases in the U.S. as of today). Any additional county info that emerges post-briefing, we’ll add here; the county has some links in the right sidebar here.

1:26 PM: Also noted (thanks to Delridge Neighborhood Services Coordinator Ron Angeles for forwarding the e-mail), the county has activated its Health and Medical Area Command to monitor the situation; in addition to the web links we’ve already provided above, the county’s health hotline 206-296-4949 is also recommended for public information. (The HMAC is explained here.)

5:19 PM ADDITION: The Seattle City Council Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Committee will get a swine flu briefing in a special meeting this Wednesday, 1:30 pm.

8:30 PM: Seattle Public Schools families will all get a letter with some basic public-health tips – here’s the text:

April 27, 2009

Dear Seattle Public Schools Students, Families and Staff:

There have not been any cases of Swine Influenza (Flu) reported in the State of Washington or King County. However, there have been confirmed cases of Swine Flu seen across the United States in the last few weeks. Seattle Public Schools staff works closely with the local, state, and national health agencies to investigate any illnesses and/or infections and we have plans in place to deal with any potential outbreaks.

Swine Flu in people is characterized by fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue. The illness may last up to seven days, but people are considered to be contagious as long as symptoms persist. If you or your child is showing mild flu-like symptoms, monitor and telephone your physician to consult if necessary or you can also consult with your school’s nurse.

Seattle Public Schools wants to remind parents and staff members of the importance of prevention and how to stay safe.

What You Can Do To Prevent the Spread of Swine Flu
• Sneeze or cough into a tissue, elbow or sleeve. Throw the tissue in the trash after use.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
• If you are sick, stay home.

Symptoms of Swine Flu
• Fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue.

Please remember that students should stay home when they have any of the following symptoms: fever (temperature 100 degrees or higher), vomiting or diarrhea, blistery rash, heavy nasal congestion or frequent cough and if your child has been diagnosed with a contagious disease.

If you have any questions feel free to call the Seattle King County Public Health Department at (206) 296-4949 or visit www.kingcounty.gov/health or visit the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov.

Sincerely,

Jill Lewis, RN MN
Program Manager, Student Health Services

14 Comments

  1. My question to anyone who has an answer to this.
    Does Tamiflu treat “Swine Flu” and “Avian Flu” combined?

    I started reading about Gilead Sciences, the maker of Tamiflu, recieved a 1 Billion dollar order in 2005 from the U.S. government. Donald Rumsfield was on the board of Gilead for 13 yrs, and bought even more stock just befofe leaving for Washington at a 720% stock return (went from $5 to just over $50 a share). The Bechtel corp and Former secretary of State George Schultz is/was on the board of directors as well.

    I noticed today that the stock went up 5 days ago from $44 to almost $48 a share. Again, 5 days ago.

    I’m not going Alex Jones on here, but it does make me question the effectiveness of 1 flu drug for all strains of flu.

    Comment by Trick — 1:23 pm April 27, 2009 #

  2. When they start saying “don’t panic”, it usually means it’s time to panic.

    Comment by Sage — 1:52 pm April 27, 2009 #

  3. Yes Sage, after reading the HOT ZONE about the Ebola threat here in the U.S. , I’m skeptical.

    Comment by Trick — 2:06 pm April 27, 2009 #

  4. Let’s see…. 305,000,000 people in the USA. A total of 40 reported cases of Swine Influenza (limited so far to five states). There have been no deaths and yet this story is all over the news. Versus standard Influenza that kills more than 30,000 people a year and only gets mentioned in the media around vaccination time. As usual the mainstream media is causing people to panic about the wrong dangers.

    Comment by christopherboffoli — 2:36 pm April 27, 2009 #

  5. The issue with swine flu is that at least in Mexico is seems the mortality rate is high in younger, healthier people. We may be seeing a huge under-reporting of total cases in Mexico since we have not seen the larger numbers of deaths in healthy adults here in the US (or there may be multiple strains, or, or, or..). We’ll likely know more by Thursday or so as to how bad (or not) this “potential pandemic” will really be.

    The main fear is that the deaths in Mexico were caused by a “cytokine storm” which is an auto-immune reaction gone wrong. It primarily affects people with stronger immune systems and it is not easy to treat (unless it is perhaps caught early). Combine that with easy human to human transmission and we MAY not have a regular flu bug on our hands.

    As the officials are saying, stay calm, take precautions and monitor the situation. Of course that is what we should be doing every day anyway.

    Personally I think educating people as to what is and might go on is a good thing. I’d rather have wasted time on public education for an event that does not happen, than to be taken off guard.

    Lastly, hopefully this will both be a false alarm, but will alert the public to the dangers associated CAFOs (factory farms).

    Comment by Gene — 3:15 pm April 27, 2009 #

  6. Trick, I think this website provides a good explanation of swine versus avian flus and how the antivirals work. http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/Flu/understandingFlu/DefinitionsOverview.htm
    Bascially, avian flu usually gets spread to the pig which then goes to the human. So yes, antivirals can treat avian and swine flu.

    Comment by dc — 3:31 pm April 27, 2009 #

  7. Thank you DC!

    Comment by Trick — 3:54 pm April 27, 2009 #

  8. Another good general source is Effect Measure, a public health discussion blog. (They discuss other topics as well, but right now it’s basically all H1N1 all the time.)

    Comment by datamuse — 4:40 pm April 27, 2009 #

  9. If you’re not very worried about this, you’re not paying attention or you don’t understand what’s going on.

    Comment by Kayleigh — 6:34 pm April 27, 2009 #

  10. Swine Flu in Mexico: The “New” Bird Flu

    New Vaccines Ready to Roll Out

    The swine flu outbreak is going to benefit one of the most prolific and successful venture capital firms in the United States: Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Share prices have already risen for two of eight public traded companies in the firm’s portfolio of Pandemic and Bio Defense investments. BioCryst, up more than 26 percent, to $2.21 per share, and Novavax, maker of viral vaccines, escalated 75 percent to $1.42 per share on the first announcement of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico.

    http://drtenpenny.com/swine_flu.aspx

    Comment by itsasetup — 7:08 pm April 27, 2009 #

  11. We will bring you the latest on what’s said relevant to Seattle/King County as it’s available. Personally, I am not panicked at this point because in 30 years of professional journalism work, I have seen so much needless panic and hyperbole over whatever The Next Big Threat was supposed to be … bird flu, swine flu #1, ebola virus, myriad others. Whatever TV station or other organization I was working for, we would dutifully do our semi-hysteric coverage … and then eventually … well … it just kind of went away. Does NOT mean you shouldn’t prepare, think about what you could and would do in a crisis, etc. ( http://westseattle.bepreparedseattle.info could relate to pandemics as well as to earthquakes etc) but it means there wouldn’t seem to be a reason to totally freak out at the moment.
    .
    That said, it’s great to be skeptical and analytical – heck, those are my stocks in trade – but for anyone younger who doesn’t remember the great panics-that-didn’t-pan-out, it just lends a little perspective, at least for now.
    .
    Anyone who has expertise in the health field and has a reason why they think this is a foolish way to look at it, PLEASE advise, I also am ready to have my mind changed at a moment’s notice … TR

    Comment by WSB — 7:17 pm April 27, 2009 #

  12. p.s. if you haven’t already seen this somewhere (I found it linked from Drudge Report, which, regardless of any alleged political bent, is a great news aggregator), flashback to the 1976 swine flu panic
    http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2008/03/dayintech_0324

    Comment by WSB — 7:30 pm April 27, 2009 #

  13. TR, one reason I suggested Effect Measure is that the authors are PH professionals. They’re not local, obviously, but they’ve got some good analysis of what we know so far and they’re very clear on what we DON’T yet know (such as how many of the cases in Mexico are actually H1N1 as opposed to some other strain).
    .
    Aetiology is another good one, the author is a professor of public health.
    .
    Anyway, commentary I’ve seen from people in the field so far (i.e., physicians, public health workers, and researchers) is that while there is cause for concern, how much and over exactly what are still open questions.

    Comment by datamuse — 7:34 pm April 27, 2009 #

  14. I am supposed to go to Mexico next week (Cabo). There have been no reports of the Swine Flu in Cabo and I have gotten Tamiflu from my doctor. Do others suggest we cancel oru trip?

    Comment by meg — 1:23 pm April 28, 2009 #

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