Three unconfirmed but "probable" cases of swine flu were identified yesterday in King County, Wa., and one in Multnomah County, with laboratory samples on their way to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for official evaluation.
Meanwhile, Madrona K-8 school in Seattle has been closed down by school district and health officials.
"As a result of Public Health's ongoing overnight investigation into the swine flu infection of a child at Madrona K-8 in Seattle, additional information from school officials has lead local health officials to believe that the infected student may have been ill during school last Friday," officials said today in a statement.
"Out of an abundance of caution, Public Health and Seattle Public Schools jointly decided that the best course of action is to close the school for seven days, starting today, to reduce the ability of the infection to spread."
The school is scheduled to re-open on May 7.
In Oregon, health officials have started daily press briefings on the epidemic and created a website just for issues relating to the flu outbreak, www.flu.oregon.gov.
"The probable case was in a Multnomah County adult female who consulted her physician after experiencing flu-like symptoms," says Dr. Mel Kohn, head of the Oregon Public Health Department. The woman, who was not hospitalized and is recovering normally, had contact with someone who had recently traveled to Mexico and been exposed to the swine flu there, he said.
The specimen from this case was sent to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further characterization, with final results of testing expected in several days.
"It is very likely that this test will be confirmed by the final step of laboratory testing," Kohn said. "So we are not waiting – we are treating this as a case of swine flu."
Meanwhile, the Oregon Attorney General's office issued an alert to beware of Internet scammers collecting personal financial information by pretending to offer swine flu updates.
"Scam emails may include links to bogus health Web sites that seek to obtain private financial information that identity thieves can use to rip off consumers," a spokesman said in a statement. "The email scams may also include viruses."
The Attorney General's office says do not open emails from unknown individuals or organizations, do not click on links to Web sites from an unknown source, and do not open email attachments from unknown individuals or organizations.
Attorney General Kroger recommends that consumers only visit legitimate Web sites for health information.
The state's Consumer Protection Hotline is 1-877-877-9392.
Symptoms of swine flu include a fever of more than 100°F, coughing, joint aches, severe headache and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.
"Now that swine flu is likely in King County, we expect to see more infections, but it's too early to say how severe the illnesses will be. We are working to provide needed information and assistance to these people and their families. We are also working with health care providers and community partners to prepare in the event that the situation becomes more serious," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County.
"We've prepared for this day for the past four years, and now we must all do our part to reduce its spread," said Ron Sims, King County Executive. "We encourage everyone to get prepared at home, find out about plans at your job, and take steps to protect yourself, your family and the community by staying home when you are sick, washing your hands often and covering your coughs and sneezes."
"In the last few years, Seattle has prepared for pandemic flu. We will activate our Emergency Operations Center at the first level so our emergency operations personnel can coordinate procedures and communications," said Greg Nickels, Seattle Mayor.
As of Wednesday, April 29, there are three probable cases of swine flu in King County, in addition to two cases in Snohomish County and one case in Spokane County.
The three King County residents with probable swine flu include a male child who was hospitalized and is improving, a male in his 20s and a woman in her 30s, both from Seattle, not hospitalized and improving.
King County health officials released these guidelines for anyone worried they may have contracted the virus:
When should you seek medical care?
Use the same judgment you would use during a typical flu season. Do not seek medical care if you are not ill or have mild symptoms for which you would not ordinarily seek medical care. If you have more severe symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, body aches or are feeling more seriously ill, call your health care provider to discuss your symptoms and if you need to be evaluated.
Public Health will continue to work with health care providers to test flu patients who develop severe illness or are associated with clusters, but does not currently recommend testing for all flu patients.
If the following flu-like symptoms are mild, medical attention is not typically required: runny nose or nasal stuffiness; low-grade fever for less than 3 days; mild headache; body aches and mild stomach upset.
What can I do now to get prepared?
This is an excellent time to get prepared at home and work for a possible influenza pandemic. See www.kingcounty.gov/health/pandemicflu
Everyday behaviors to stay healthy
If you are sick, stay home from work or school.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you don't have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
To further prevent the spread of germs, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Avoid close contact with sick people
"Swine flu" is an influenza A (H1N1) virus normally found in pigs. There are many such viruses and they rarely infect humans. The virus currently causing human illness is a new type of swine flu that has developed the ability to infect people and be transmitted from person to person.
Although this new virus is called "swine flu," it is not transmitted from pigs to humans, or from eating pork products. Like other respiratory diseases, it is spread from person to person through coughs and sneezes. When people cough or sneeze, they spread germs through the air or onto surfaces that other people may touch.
For more information and frequent updates: www.kingcounty.gov/health/swineflu
Public Health Hotline: 206-296-4949
To help you prepare more please consult our disaster preparedness page