Swine flu ‘acting like seasonal flu,’ officials monitor

Staff with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and local public health officials continue taking steps to slow the spread of H1N1 flu (swine flu) in the state.

The announcement comes after the CDPHE announced the first two confirmed cases of H1N1 in Colorado.

According to the CDPHE, one case is a woman in her 30s from Arapahoe County who returned from a Mexico cruise and a several-day stay in San Diego. She was not hospitalized and is recovering. The other case is a man in his 40s from Douglas County who works as a baggage handler at Denver International Airport (DIA). He was hospitalized for three days and was released to recover at home.

“We understand many people are concerned,” said Joe Fowler, San Juan Basin Health Department (SJBHD) epidemiologist. “We’d like individuals to take a deep breath and remind them that the swine flu outbreak has been acting like the seasonal flu in the U.S. with relatively mild symptoms, and reassure individuals that we have been planning with community partners for this type of potential pandemic.”

Staff with San Juan Basin Health Department is working closely with La Plata and Archuleta County offices of emergency management, local schools, day cares, healthcare providers and other local partners in monitoring the situation locally and providing on-going guidance in this rapidly changing outbreak. In addition they are in near constant contact with the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“As I said on Sunday and Monday, we fully expected to identify Colorado cases of H1N1 flu,” said Ned Calonge, the state’s chief medical officer. “This doesn’t change the state’s approach to the H1N1 flu outbreak. It’s important to understand that, at this time in the United States, the H1N1 flu is acting just like seasonal flu. It is a relatively mild disease, though we expect, as with seasonal flu, to see a spectrum of illness. We continue to ask all individuals with mild flu-like illness to stay home. This is regardless of travel history. Children and adolescents with fever should not go to day care or school. Adults with fever should not go to work until their symptoms resolve. Individuals with severe illness, such as difficulty breathing, should contact their health-care provider.”

The symptoms of H1N1 flu in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and may include fever greater than 100 F, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, chills, headache and body aches, and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1 flu.

The state health department advises those who experience influenza symptoms to stay home for seven days after onset of symptoms, or at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer.

The CDPHE also encourages people to take the following personal precautions to decrease their chances of getting the flu:

• Wash your hands frequently.

• Cover your sneezes and coughs.

• Avoid others with respiratory illnesses.

The case from DIA is a reminder that there are potential exposures in public places. Frequent hand washing or the use of hand sanitizers can protect people who are interacting in public places and prevent the spread of illness. H1N1 flu is passed from person to person, Calonge said, and is not contracted from pigs or by eating pork.

“There are other lab specimens from patients in the pipeline that may confirm additional cases of H1N1 flu in the days and weeks to come,” said Calonge. “If there is evidence of a cluster of H1N1 flu cases that would warrant protective public health measures, we are prepared to employ social distancing measures that would help protect people from coming in contact with individuals who may be contagious.”

At this time, SJBHD is not recommending shutting down public events, but staff at the organization, like the state, will constantly monitor this rapidly evolving situation.

Citizens can stay informed by calling the CDPHE information hotline at (877) 462-2911.