H1N1 is here — Now what? – UPDATE: Madrona Elementary closed for week

With the announcement of probable cases of H1N1 swine flu in Seattle and across the state, the discussion around the situation is shifting away from the hypothetical and into daily life. One of the cases involves an 11-year-old student at Madrona Elementary who King County officials say is hospitalized and in improving condition. A bulletin from Seattle Schools says the student did not attend class at the time he would have been contagious.

UPDATE: Seattle Schools has reversed its decision to keep Madrona Elementary open:

As a result of Public Health’s ongoing investigation into the swine flu infection of a student at Madrona K-8, health officials believe that the infected student may have been ill during school last Friday. Out of an abundance of caution, Madrona K-8 will close for 7 days, starting Thursday April 30 and will reopen on May 7.

Meanwhile, other schools remain open. You have work to do. Life goes on. But are you finding yourself behaving differently? We decided to cancel a few social opportunities for our 18 month old. I Pureled four or five times today! And we even dug out the surgical masks we keep around for the rare volcano (one of is Alaska born so a little overly volcano concerned). Are you shifting your plans for the week? Pureling obsessively?

Here’s our recent post on King County’s pandemic flu response plan. Below, is the entire King County update on the cases found in our area.

Probable swine flu (H1N1) in King County

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Health officials encourage residents to get prepared at home and work

KING COUNTY, WA – 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:

  • a male child of Seattle who was hospitalized and is improving
  • a male in his 20s from Seattle, not hospitalized and improving
  • 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/pandemicflu

Everyday behaviors to stay healthy

  • 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
Public Health Hotline: 206-296-4949

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6 thoughts on “H1N1 is here — Now what? – UPDATE: Madrona Elementary closed for week

  1. 36,000 people die of the regular flu every year, are we getting our panties in a bunch over that? Meanwhile, I wonder how many people in Seattle have herpes, lupus, rabies, or any other potentially dangerous diseases.

  2. i would tend to agree with you; to a point.

    the problem with swine flu is that it’s not an ordinary strain of flu that has the potential to kill just the young and elderly. swine flu has been proven to be deadly to any age cluster. i think that’s why it’s being treated so seriously.

    also, the flu can be spread person to person by just standing in the same elevator with someone who sneezes/coughs or, possibly, by opening a door that an infected person used. the same can’t be said of herpes and i don’t know enough about lupus or rabies but i would assume you have to do more than just be next to someone with those diseases when they sneeze/cough.

    personally, i’m not worrying myself. i’m not buying a mask, i’m not stocking up on supplies and i’m not taking extra precautions. i do wash my hands but no more than i was already doing. if i get the flu i’ll deal with it then the way i’ve always dealt with severe flu – juice, vitamins and rest. but i’m also single and live alone; i can see where those with young children would be concerned.

  3. How may people infected with rabies/lupus/herpes?

    Rabies: almost certainly nobody. You only get it via a bite from an infected animal. ~ no rabies in King County. The infection is very prolonged, so people get diagnosed and treated before they become incurably attacked by the disease (in those vanishingly rare cases, the people are [sadly] securely confined to prevent their infecting others while they await their inevitable and horrible death).

    Lupus is a an autoimmune disease ( >http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systemic_lupus_erythematosus ) : it’s not infections.

    Herpes: 20 to 30% of the population have herpes antibodies ( >http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herpes) and hence have had prior infections, and probably harbor latent infections which could be reactivated.

    Best strategy? Wait to see if it’s really an extremely virulent pandemic, like the 1917 flu. Doesn’t appear so to date. Suspect that masks won’t help much: see 1917 pictures ( >http://www.centraldistrictnews.com/2009/04/27/streetcar-and-).

    If it does become a worldwide pandemic that hits Seattle, best/only personal strategy is to remain away from other people till it’s over (and hope that public services don’t collapse). The several weeks’ worth of food/water that you (of course) keep in your basement in case of catastrophic earthquake will of course be handy here. A good supply of firearms might also help.

    More useful things to worry about include first and second-hand smoke, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity, all of which are known and avoidable health hazards. For people who do none of these, I caution against the hazards of extreme smugness. Oh, and global warming…..

  4. @eeepc – I’ll wait to be blase until the world knows what the real morbidity rate from this flu is. So far in the US it doesn’t seem worse than “regular flu”. But there are some unanswered questions about flu deaths in Mexico. It seems that the morbidity there may be higher and we don’t really know if it actually is and if so, why. Until WHO and CDC are able to establish clearly what the expected morbidity is, I think this warrants some extra attention.

  5. I think you missed my point, I was being facetious. People are clearly overreacting to this outbreak. During the last Swine Flu outbreak, more people died in this country from vaccination complications than the actual disease. Does anyone remember the simply HORRIBLE, awful avian flu outbreak and how many people in this country died? Oh yeah, no one cares anymore. Avian flu is still alive and well (2 people recently diagnosed in Egypt, in fact) but since the media moved on, so did the people.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be prudent. We should all be washing our hands before and after meals, not licking subway poles, etc. This is basic stuff that will help us combat all the deadly diseases that are floating around out there. But next month no one will be talking about swine flu, mark my words.

  6. The major difference between Avian flue and this Swine flu, is that most of the human cases of Avian flu were contracted from infected birds, not human to human (yet). Swine flu is already being transmitted between humans, which is why the WHO alerts are higher for Swine flu than they have ever been for Avian flu. I’m not freaking out either, but this, along with zeebleoops comment, means we still need to be aware. The fact that everybody is talking about it and information is spreading quickly will probably be the best tool against this thing