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Swine flu case probable in Placer County

Feds test suspect sample from county Health Department
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Health officials believe the swine flu is probably in Placer County, with one case now being tested for the disease. Confirmation by the State Department of Public Health of a probable case in the county came Monday afternoon, hours after the announcement in the morning that a Fair Oaks youth had come down with swine flu. Little information was being released by county or state spokesmen about the probable Placer County case but a county health official did say that the person samples of a flu virus were taken from was doing fine. No information on where the Placer County patient lives, age or sex were being released. Ralph Montano, state health spokesman, would only say that the possibility of the Placer County person having swine flu was probable. Jim Gandley, assistant director of Placer County Health & Human Services, said the county is describing it as a “suspect case.” The county’s lab tested for the swine flu virus and then sent the sample out for confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control. The flu sample was collected on Sunday. The county’s announcement follows word that a teenager tested positive for the disease and his Fair Oaks school was closed down Monday by Sacramento County health officials. Responding to the spread of the flu into California – and now Northern California – Placer County issued a statement shortly before noon advising people to cover their coughs, wash their hands and avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth. Gandley said that it’s critical to jump on the swine flu outbreak early. “The federal government declared an emergency situation not to scare people but allow it to free up assets,” he said. The county’s release quoted U.S. Centers for Disease Control advice and stated there is no vaccine currently available to prevent the flu but that some antiviral medications have been helpful to patients. If the Sacramento County confirmation is any indication, Placer County could know Tuesday if it has its first swine flu case. A statement from Sacramento County quoted Public Health Officer Dr. Glenna Trochet that the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the sample sent to their lab Saturday was positive for swine flu. The sample was collected from a student at St. Mel school in Fair Oaks and represents the first confirmed sample in Northern California. There may be more cases at the Fair Oaks school. Samples from three other children at St. Mel who were ill during the week of April 20-24 will be tested at the Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory. Already in Auburn, at least one pharmacy is seeing an increase in the purchase of medical face masks. But Dr. Mark Vaughan of the Auburn Medical Group said that while they may help, if an outbreak does spread, they wouldn’t provide complete protection. And a Placer County Office of Education official said most schools are putting out information to parents on precautions to take and signs of swine flu to look for. Skyridge Pharmacy’s Bonnie Husak said that there hadn’t been a run on the masks yet but that the number sold had stepped up since Friday. “The last two ladies got extras for a cruise,” Husak said. “They were going to hand them out to others.” Vaughan said the masks are relatively inexpensive and may help. But they don’t protect the eyes, which also are vulnerable as a receptor of the flu virus, he said. “But we’re not to the point where I would tell patients to go out and get them now,” Vaughan said. “That could change. This flu does have the potential to change rapidly, either by spreading or mutating into something else.” Typically, the flu season is over at this point in the spring, Vaughan said. “This is a unique virus that is working on its own timetable,” he said. “It has sort of come out of nowhere.” James Anderberg, executive director of administrative services for county schools, said the schools are trying to be proactive as they alert parents. They’re attempting to make sure people don’t panic while making them more watchful of their children’s health, he said. The Associated Press reported Monday that the flu is suspected in the deaths of 103 people in Mexico. That total was increased by the Mexican government to 150 later in the day. There have been at least 40 confirmed cases in the United States, including eight in California. ------------------------------------------ Q&A: Swine flu facts to consider* Q: What is swine flu? A: It’s a respiratory disease in pigs that people do not normally get. Swine flu viruses have spread person-to-person but past outbreaks were limited to three people or less. Q: What happened this time to cause this swine flu outbreak? A: Late last month, cases of human swine flu viruses were first reported in Southern California and Texas. The flu may have spread from Mexico, where 150 people have died and the government recently distributed more than 4 million face masks. Q: What are the signs of swine flu in people? A: Symptoms are similar to human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting. In the past, severe illness and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Q: How does swine flu spread? A: It spreads the same way seasonal flu spreads – mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of people with flu. Sometimes people may become infected by touching with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. Q: Can I get swine flu from eating or preparing pork? A: No. Swine flu viruses are not spread by food. *Information from: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.