Pierce County News: H1N1 Flu Updates

The Index has set up this thread to provide media releases from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department regarding H1N1 flu...

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will Track County Human Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Cases on Agency Web site

May 8, 2009

Three additional cases of Human swine influenza A (H1N1) have been confirmed at Edgemont Jr. High School in Pierce County this afternoon. One was the original probable
case that had been pending from CDC. Two new cases were confirmed by the Washington State Department of Health laboratories.

Now that Washington State has the capacity to independently process between 80-90 samples each day, the number of confirmed cases throughout the county will likely increase quickly. As of May 7, there were still several hundred samples awaiting confirmation by the state.

Beginning today, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will track and report cases of Human Swine Influenza A (H1N1) on our agency’s Web site — http://www.tpchd.org .

Daily updating of the Web site is considered to be the most efficient method of tracking the number of cases in Pierce County and reporting them to the public. Each afternoon at 3 P.M. the site will be updated to reflect the most current information.

The information that will be available on the web site will include: date of report, location (city) and status (probable/confirmed) Other information, such as age and gender may or may not be reported depending on availability and the need for confidentiality.

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First Confirmed Case of H1N1 Influenza in Pierce County

May 7, 2009

Public Health officials have confirmed the first case of H1N1 Influenza in Pierce County. A student at Edgemont Jr. High School developed symptoms on May 2. After visiting a
physician, a sample was sent to the state for testing. The new testing capability at the Washington State Department of Health Laboratories allowed for the relatively quick confirmation.

The student is home and, according to reports from the student’s mother, is recovering. It is advised that students remain at home for at least seven days after the onset of symptoms and should be symptom free for 24 hours before returning to school.

There is another probable case of influenza from the school that is awaiting final results from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Until last week, states did not have the necessary capability to confirm cases and all probable samples were sent to CDC. Two additional samples have been sent to the state for testing from students at Edgemont.

After consulting with the Health Department, Puyallup School District officials reported their intention to continue with normal school operations at this time. Routine school closures are not considered to be necessary or effective in preventing spread of the disease and are addressed on a case by case basis.

It is recommended that students continue to be screened for symptoms and sent home if appropriate. School staff continue to emphasize the importance of hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and keeping students home if they are are ill.

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Probable Case of H1N1 Human Swine Flu in Puyallup

May 2, 2009

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department received notice this afternoon from the state Public Health Laboratory, that a student at Edgemont Junior High School, in Puyallup, is considered a “probable” case of H1N1 Human Swine Flu. Biological specimens will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The health department has contacted the family and school district.

The student, a teenage male, has not been at school since April 24, prior to the infectious period. He exhibited mild to moderate symptoms of influenza, did not need hospitalization, and has recovered completely.

The school district and health department are considering the best action to take, taking into account the health of students and staff and the fact that the student was not in school during infectious period. Decisions concerning whether to close the school will be made and announced Sunday afternoon.

The school has already disinfected surfaces at Edgemont Junior High.

The student’s parents kept him home, away from other people, during the period when he was infectious. His physician prescribed Tamiflu and the student has regained his health.

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Pierce County cases are not human swine flu

May 1, 2009

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department received news late this afternoon from the state Department of Health that the two hospitalized students from Lakes High School suspected of possibly having Human Swine Influenza have been confirmed as negative for swine flu. The third student showing milder symptoms, tested negative by rapid influenza testing and was not hospitalized.

The samples were tested through two different measures and both tests indicated that swine flu was not present in these cases.

Director of Health for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Dr. Anthony Chen, said, “This is the best possible outcome. Superintendent Debbie LeBeau was very wise and prudent in her decision to close Lakes High School until the results of the test were clear.”

Dr. Chen stated, “Nonetheless, the community should be aware that we are still in flu season and not let its guard down. We should continue to use precautionary practices to prevent the spread of illness.”

To avoid getting or spreading infections, the Health Department continues to recommend:

— If you are sick, stay at home. If your child is sick do not send them to school.

— Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

— Cover your cough with the inside of your elbow or with a tissue.

— If you or your family is feeling sick and needs to leave home to see the doctor, wear a mask.

The Health Department has prepared several informative fact sheets giving instruction on how to deal with a potential flu outbreak at home, at work, at school and in shelters. There is also a fact sheet on how to take care of sick people at home or in a school dormitory. To access these fact sheets go to http://www.tpchd.org .

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Health Department Awaits H1N1 Test Results

May 1, 2009

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is awaiting the results of laboratory analysis of samples taken from three Lakes High School students who possibly have Human Swine Flu. The Department is working closely with the school, which has closed until the analysis is complete in the next day or two. As an added precaution, the Department is asking that Lakes High School students remain at home and avoid large social groupings until those results are in.

The Health Department has been on alert since Sunday, working one-on-one with hospitals, providers, and schools to detect any instances of H1N1. The Lakes High School situation is not resulting in any increase in the already heightened surveillance of the Health Department.

The Department is ready, if necessary, to implement long-standing plans to respond to an influenza epidemic. There have only been 16 probable cases statewide so far. But in an abundance of caution, the Department is conducting numerous preparatory activities such as reviewing existing plans to use schools for initial evaluation of symptomatic people in the event of a widespread outbreak.

To avoid getting or spreading infections, the Health Department continues to recommend:

— Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

— Cover your cough with the inside of your elbow or with a tissue.

— If you or your family is feeling sick and needs to leave home to see the doctor, wear a mask.

Adds Dr. Anthony Chen, Director of Health:

— If you are sick, stay at home. If your child is sick, keep him or her at home; do not send him or her to school or day care.

— The Health Department has prepared several informative fact sheets giving instruction on how to deal with a potential flu outbreak at home, at work, at school and in shelters. There is also a fact sheet on how to take care of sick people at home or in a school dormitory. To access these fact sheets go to http://www.tpchd.org .

For 24-hr information, contact the Health Department at 253-798-6500.

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Emergency Management ready to support flu efforts

May 1, 2009

The Pierce County Department of Emergency Management is set to implement well-practiced plans to minimize social disruption and economic losses if the Human Swine (H1N1) Flu outbreak intensifies.

DEM plans were written to ensure the continuity of crucial government services, essential infrastructure and to support the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department which is the lead agency in responding to the potential epidemic.

Emergency Management will carry out that role in its state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which is equipped with high-tech communications equipment. The EOC is designed to provide an alternative facility for all government agencies during times of crisis when interagency coordination and communications are crucial.

Sections of Pierce County’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan are specifically aimed toward supporting operations in the event of a disease outbreak. The plan, which can be accessed at http://www.piercecountywa.org/dem , addresses DEM capabilities such as:

— Round-the-clock alert and warning mechanisms for government officials and key stakeholders.

— Call center operations to answer citizen queries.

— 24/7 coverage by an EOC duty officer.

— Redundant data and voice communications to all relevant local, state and federal government agencies.

“We’ve been training for eventualities like pan flu for years,” said Pierce County Emergency Management Director Steve Bailey. “We’re ready to support the Health Department’s operations and ensure the smooth functioning of key government services.”

Bailey recommended that families follow the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines by preparing now to lessen the impact of an influenza epidemic. The recommendations include:

— Store a two week supply of food and water.

— Ensure an adequate supply of prescription medications.

— Have nonprescription drugs and health supplies in your home such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.

— Preparing your family by planning how they would care for one another would happen if someone were to become sick.

— Teach your children to wash their hands and cover covers and sneezes with tissues.

— Teach your children to stay away from others as much as possible if they are sick and to stay home from school or work.

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