Flu update: 5 King Co. schools now closed (none in West Seattle)

King County health authorities just finished a short briefing on the flu situation. One more case of suspected swine flu is now reported, a 9-year-old patient, and because of that, an additional school has closed in King County, Midway Elementary in Des Moines, but no more Seattle Public Schools closures were announced, beyond the current three (Madrona, Stevens, Aki Kurose), none of which is in or near West Seattle. Perhaps the most important thing Dr. David Fleming said: Right now this flu seems to be behaving like “regular” flu – different levels of severity, but no worse than the seasonal outbreaks. Also participating in the news conference was Mayor Nickels, who noted that the city’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated to help track the flu outbreak. And authorities again stressed, the most important thing you can do is to stay home if you feel sick. We’ll add more info here when the official roundup from today’s briefing is available.

ADDED 4:53 PM: As promised, we’re adding the official roundup. It also includes word of a new flu hotline – 877-903-KING – and the total number of schools in King County closed because of the flu situation is now five (so we have changed our headline):

One more person with H1NI virus (swine flu) in King County
Flu strain appears no more severe than a typical flu season;
Public Health opens information call center to support the public

KING COUNTY, WA – Today, one more case of swine influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, has been identified in King County . The number of probable cases in King County is now 11. 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.

“It is not surprising that we are seeing more infected people, and we expect more over the coming days and even weeks,” said Dr. David Fleming , Director & Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County . “So far, locally and nationally, this swine flu strain appears to be no more severe than the flu we’d see in a typical flu season. We will continue to learn about this virus and watch its activity in the community.”

As the virus becomes more common, Public Health is recommending new steps to help reduce future infections in schools.

“Our parents are at the front lines of stopping the spread of infection. We are urging all parents to assess their kids every morning to see if they’re sick, and keep them home if they are,” said Dr. Fleming. “In addition, we will be working with schools across King County to help them establish health checks at school entry, so that sick students are identified and sent home before they expose other children.”

Starting today, Public Health is establishing a Flu Hotline for the public at 877-903-KING (5464), staffed from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interpreters are available. The Flu Hotline provides health and safety information on the current Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak. If you need medical advice, contact your healthcare provider.

Some local hospitals and health care providers are reporting that many people are unnecessarily going to emergency rooms and doctors’ offices with mild symptoms. In terms of seeking 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.

The new case is a female child, resident of Des Moines , who attends Midway Elementary School in the Highline School District . The illness was mild, and the child is recovering.

Out of an abundance of caution, Public Health has worked jointly with the Highline School District to decide that the best course of action is to close the school involved for seven days. Midway Elementary School in Highline will be closed starting on Monday.

Other schools currently closed include Madrona K-8, Aki Kurose Middle School and Stevens Elementary in Seattle and Woodmont Elementary in Federal Way .

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.

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.

Public Health is reporting that school absenteeism in King County is normal for this time of year. In addition, emergency department surveillance at King County hospitals did detect an increase in visits beginning Sunday, April 26, coinciding with the increased swine flu publicity; however, local hospitals are not reporting an increase in serious illnesses or hospital admissions related to respiratory illness.

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 and prevent spread of influenza

* 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

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

Flu Hotline: 877-903-KING (5464)

3 Replies to "Flu update: 5 King Co. schools now closed (none in West Seattle)"

  • cmc May 1, 2009 (4:02 pm)

    Midway Elementary is in the Highline District and their website still states that none of their schools have been impacted by Swine Flu.

  • WSB May 1, 2009 (4:34 pm)

    We know the communications folks in HSD and they’re good people but in our years of doing this it’s also clear that some government sites (and some private sites too, to be fair) are not as easily updatable as they should be … unfortunate. And even when they are, employees seem to get tugged in different directions … King County started a blog-format site, theoretically with the thought of rapid updates, but at midday today it still had the April 29th update with no suspected swine flu cases in this county … which of course was superseded by the first announcement later that night … It has since been updated, though – TR

  • AMR May 1, 2009 (10:29 pm)

    Is there any information about how and where this girl got the flu?

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