Seven more people in the Seattle-King County area are suspected of having swine flu, bringing the total today to 13, local health department officials announced this afternoon.
Seven more people in the Seattle-King County area are suspected of having swine flu, bringing the state’s total today to 13, health officials announced this afternoon.
Two of the seven new cases are children of a woman already identified earlier this week as likely having swine flu.
One is a 22-year-old woman. Four others are schoolchildren, ranging in age from 5 to 12.
Officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County did not immediately have complete information on what schools those children attended or whether they were attending school while potentially contagious.
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The health department is working with schools to implement flu-related closures.
In the Seattle School District, three school closures have been announced. This morning, the district announced Madrona K-8 would be closed for one week. And in a 6 p.m. automated message to parents today, the district said Aki Kurose and Stevens Elementary will close Friday and reopen Friday, May 8. The Bilingual Family Center at Aki Kurose also will close.
Other school closures were announced in Federal Way and Mukilteo.
In Federal Way, the school district said Woodmont K-8 would be closed starting Friday. It is expected to reopen Monday, May 11.
The Mukilteo School District this afternoon announced that Odyssey Elementary would be closed on Friday.
“My prediction is there are going to be several more school closures we’ll be announcing,” said Dr. David Fleming, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County.
Doctor saw patients
On Wednesday, six probable cases of swine flu were announced in Washington state — three are in King County, including an 11-year-old boy whose illness led to the closure of Seattle’s Madrona K-8 School, and a physician who came in contact with patients.
Two cases in Snohomish County include a 34-year-old woman, and a 3-year-old boy who recently returned with his family from Mexico.
Other cases include a 27-year-old man in Seattle and a Spokane County man in his 40s.
Health authorities said they expected to confirm the results of the tests within the next few days.
The 33-year-old physician is a pediatrician who contracts with The Everett Clinic and lives in King County. She became ill Monday night after seeing patients that day in the clinic’s Mill Creek location, said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, medical director of The Everett Clinic’s walk-in clinics.
The doctor had itchy eyes and nasal symptoms Monday but thought it was seasonal allergies, Tu said. But after going home Monday night, she ran a fever and went to a local emergency room.
The patients the doctor treated Monday, and staff who worked with her, will be evaluated and treated as necessary, the clinic said.
“The physician has wracked her brain and gone over her entire schedule” to try to figure out how she might have contracted swine flu, Tu said. Neither she nor her family members had recently traveled.
“It could’ve been picked up with her children or out and about or shopping or the workweek prior.”
In another Snohomish County case, the 3-year-old boy returned on April 24 from a trip to Mexico with his family. The boy’s 6-year-old brother also was ill but tested negative for the virus. He is being retested, according to Dr. Gary Goldbaum of the Snohomish Health District. Neither child has been to school or day care since returning from their trip, Goldbaum said.
This morning, Seattle School District officials closed the Madrona K-8 school from today through next Wednesday after a report that an 11-year-old boy at the school has a probable case of the flu.
At a news conference this morning at Madrona K-8, health and school officials said information that turned up overnight leads them to believe that the infected student may have been ill during school last Friday.
As a precaution, health and school-district officials decided that it was prudent to close the school for seven days while public health officials evaluate the spread and behavior of the virus. The school is expected to reopen Thursday, May 7.
The 11-year-old boy felt fine Friday but Monday had a fever, cough and sore throat. His mother kept him home from school, and he was later hospitalized, said Fleming, the public health director for Seattle and King County.
In its call to parents this evening, the Seattle district offered no details about why Aki Kurose and Stevens Elementary are closing.
The Mukilteo School District announced this afternoon that Odyssey Elementary School will be closed Friday because the parent of one of the students, the 34-year-old woman from Lynnwood, had been identified as a probable swine-flu case. The student has not been to the school since last Friday, officials said.
In Federal Way, Deputy Superintendent Mark Davidson said this afternoon that Woodmont K-8 will close for seven days, starting Friday because a student had been sent home with flu symptoms today, then taken to a doctor.
Students won’t actually go back to school until a week from Monday, May 11, however, because all the district’s schools will be closed a week from Friday as a staff-training day.
The Woodmont student was “in school this morning for a short time” before he was sent home, according to Federal Way district spokeswoman Diane Turner.
Turner said the boy’s parents were called because he had flu symptoms — a temperature of 100 or more and headache or body aches. It is standard practice for schools to send kids home when they have a temperature and other flu symptoms.
Later in the day, the district learned from the Seattle-King County health department that the boy had a probable case of swine flu, and that the school needed to close for seven days.
Turner said she could not tell the boy’s age or grade but said he was in an elementary grade. She did not know whether he or his family had visited Mexico recently.
Turner said the facilities staff would be going through the school to try to disinfect it in the coming days.
Parents of children whose schools are closed are being asked to keep the children home rather than sending them to libraries, community centers, other public facilities.
In a news release issued this evening, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Fleming, said keeping children at home is important in order to avoid the risk of spreading infection.
“We understand that keeping kids at home presents child-care challenges for some families,” the statement said. “But we’re asking the community to work together for the safety of our children and others.”
How school will respond
David Tucker, spokesman for the Seattle School District, said school custodians will follow typical cleaning and maintenance procedures, but that extraordinary cleaning measures have not been deemed necessary.
He said the school district has not decided whether Madrona students will have to stay in school past the end of the school year. The district will make that decision later in consultation with state school authorities.
Officials don’t expect to close other schools on a regular basis. They will evaluate reports of illness case-by-case.
Jeff Duchin, chief of communicable disease with Public Health Seattle & King County, said that so far, the virus seems to be behaving like a typical flu virus.
Duchin said that the King County cases do not have a connection to Mexico nor to each other and that public health officials remain uncertain as to the source of their infection.
“What we’re seeing is typical of what we see in a normal influenza season,” Duchin said.
Seattle and other area school districts are reminding staff and students to be extra-vigilant about washing their hands, covering their mouths while coughing and staying home if ill.
“The best thing schools can be doing is re-emphasizing good, common-sense measures,” said Martin Mueller, an assistant superintendent at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Background on the patients
All the King County patients are improving.
The Seattle man, who lives alone, had a fever and cough.
Health officials have contacted the Spokane man, according to The Associated Press. Officials say he is no longer contagious, and they do not believe that he spread the disease very far even if his becomes a confirmed case.
A child connected to the man attended Sheridan Elementary School in Spokane, and officials did an investigation at the school Thursday and found minimal risk that any students would have been infected, the wire service said.
Spokane County health officer Dr. Joel McCullough declined to identify the man. He said it will be several days before the Centers for Disease Control confirms if the man actually had swine flu.
The man recently returned from California and went to his doctor when he felt sick, according to The Associated Press. His medical samples were sent to a state lab, and the results were inconclusive. Those samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control.
Chances are high they will be confirmed to be swine flu, said Dr. Tony Marfin, state epidemiologist. During the past two weeks, more than 95 percent of suspected samples sent to the CDC from around the nation have been confirmed as swine flu, Marfin said.
The “worried well”
Since swine flu emerged as a global public-health emergency a week ago, doctors and hospitals said they have been running more influenza tests, and seeing increasing numbers of patients they call the “worried well.”
“They have a cold, and they’re worried they have swine flu,”said Tu, the clinic director in Everett.
State health officials have been asking medical providers to send all samples testing positive for influenza A to the state lab in Shoreline to determine its subtype.
Officials realized around 6 p.m. Wednesday that they had probable swine-flu cases on their hands when the six samples tested negative for both of the two human influenza A strains. That left the likely possibility that they were seeing the new swine strain of H1N1.
Testing ability, Tamiflu coming
Next week, the state lab expects to receive from the CDC the reagents needed to run the confirmation test itself. That could cut down the confirmation time to about a day.
Two antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, appear effective against swine flu. Over the next several days, Washington expects to receive 230,000 five-day courses of Tamiflu from the federal stockpile. Marfin said that’s about 25 percent of the supply allocated to the state by the federal government.
Marfin said the drugs will be kept in stock only as precaution and will not be handed out yet.
“There is no plan for mass distribution,” he said.
Marfin emphasized that residents do not need medical care for mild flu-like symptoms.
“People should go to the hospital when they are ill” and not simply to seek a flu test, Marfin said.
Alaska Airlines disinfecting
Airlines are coping with a wave of cancellations on flights to Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak, and some have stepped up efforts to sanitize planes.
Alaska Airlines began removing pillows and blankets from all its flights Wednesday night. The airline also has expanded its regular cleaning of aircraft interiors on flights serving Mexico, using a virus-killing disinfectant on everything from seat belt buckles and trays to passenger air vents and window shades, said airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.
So far, swine flu has been much less deadly than avian flu, the focus of much pandemic planning until now.
Avian flu has killed more than 60 percent of the 421 people infected with it worldwide, primarily in Vietnam and Indonesia.
But swine flu spreads among humans far more easily than avian flu, and in much the same way as seasonal flu: through large respiratory droplets from sneezes and coughs, and to lesser extent from infected surfaces.
King County has enough Tamiflu on hand to treat 190,000 people infected or exposed to swine flu.
Authorities stressed that the risk of infection for any one person is not great.
“The risk of getting swine flu in Washington is low. And the risk of getting seriously ill is extremely low,” said Duchin said.
Seattle Times staff reporter Maureen O’Hagan contributed to this report.
Kyung Song: 206-464-2423 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Madrona K-8: Closed starting today. Expected to reopen next Thursday, May 7.
Aki Kurose: Closed starting Friday. Expected to reopen Friday, May 8. The Bilingual Family Center at Aki Kurose will also close.
Stevens Elementary Closed starting Friday. Expected to reopen Friday, May 8.
Woodmont K-8: Closed starting Friday. Expected to reopen Monday, May 11.
Odyssey Elementary: Closed Friday.