Eagle County: Swine flu case no surprise | VailDaily.com

Eagle County: Swine flu case no surprise

Chris Outcalt
Eagle County, CO Colorado
A trio of pig sculptures wear masks provided by employees of a nearby restaurant, Monday, May 4, 2009 in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Faith Cathcart) ** NO MAGS, NO SALES **
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Swine flu has made its way to Eagle County, Colorado.

Don’t panic, officials said.

The county’s first confirmed case of the H1N1 strand of the flu virus, which is being called swine flu, was announced by county health officials Monday morning.

The person that has the illness is a male in his late teens. His case wasn’t severe. He wasn’t hospitalized and is recovering at his house, said officials, who aren’t releasing where in the county the man lives or his exact age.

“With any illness, regardless of what it is, protecting the patients privacy is important,” said Becky Larson, the county’s epidemiologist.

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The illness has affected about 300 people in 36 states and more than 1,000 people worldwide, but most cases haven’t been more serious than the seasonal flu. The World Health Organization has set its pandemic alert level at five, meaning the organization believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent, but there are no plans to raise the threat level to six, the highest level, officials said.

The single swine flu confirmation in Eagle County changes little about the way local officials are planning to handle an outbreak.

“This isn’t anything unexpected, we knew it was a possibility we’d have a confirmed case here,” Larson said. “The important message is this is no time for the community to panic. Right now, it’s acting very similar to our normal seasonal flu.”

The advice is the same: Wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you’re sick and stay away from those with respiratory illnesses.

“If you follow basic steps to prevent the spread of illness,” Larson said. “There is no reason not to go about your daily business.”

Local and state officials are still investigating how the county resident contracted swine flu and where he may have gotten it. Officials don’t think the person got the illness while traveling.

School officials are staying in contact with the county about what to do if more cases of swine flu pop up, but at the moment have no plans to close schools, said Matthew Earle, a spokesman for the Eagle County School District.

“If we had a confirmed case (in a school), we’d probably ask the student to go home for 48 hours,” Earle said. “What’s so tough about this is that it’s changing every minute.”

The district has sent letters to parents with tips on how to keep an eye out for flu symptoms and reminding them to keep their kids home if they have any flu-like symptoms.

If more severe cases of swine flu showed up in Eagle County, it would be more cause for concern, Larson said.

“The number of confirmed cases is not as important,” Larson said. “What we’re looking for is the severity of influenza, that’s how we base our planning.”

Symptoms of swine flu include a fever higher than 100 degrees, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, chills, headache, body aches and fatigue. The illness is passed from person to person and is not spread by pigs or by eating pork.

The county is also in constant communication with local health care providers.

“If someone’s symptoms are severe or if they’re concerned about their symptoms those are good indicators to consult their doctors about whether they should come in (for an appointment).”

The confirmed case hasn’t changed much at Vail Valley Medical Center, either, said Heather Gilmartin, the hospital’s nurse epidemiologist.

“It doesn’t do anything grand,” Gilmartin said. “We’re not panicked, we’re not even raising eyebrows, but we’re making sure we’re keeping abreast of the information.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.

To subscribe to EC Alert, a county system that provides emergency information to all mobile devices including cell phones, pagers, PDAs and e-mail addresses, visit http://www.ecalert.org.

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