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An adult from Redding is the first Shasta County resident to test positive for the swine flu (H1N1) virus, public health officials learned today.
The person had recently traveled to Mexico and has fully recovered after convalescing at home.
The lab specimen was classified as “probable” swine flu by the Shasta County Public Health laboratory on Saturday, and results were confirmed late Monday by the California Department of Public Health. The patient was informed Tuesday.
Public Health staff spent the weekend contacting people who had close contact with the patient, and a few hospital employees were treated with antiviral medication as a precautionary measure. None has exhibited flu-like symptoms.
Shasta County Health Officer Andrew Deckert, MD, MPH, said all local residents should take common-sense steps to protect themselves from swine flu.
“Flu viruses are very unpredictable. This outbreak could be a marathon, not a sprint, so hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.”
A Redding man with a ‘probable’ case of swine flu (H1N1) returned from travel in Mexico on Friday, said Donnell Ewert, Public Health Director, early Saturday evening.
Ewert said the man, who did not travel with anyone else from Shasta County, had minimal contact with north state citizens because the man flew from Mexico to the Bay Area, and then drove himself directly to Shasta Regional Medical Center’s emergency room Friday where he was tested.
The adult patient, whom Ewert and other health officials have declined to identify, is recovering at home in self-isolation where he is on “supportive therapy” to treat symptoms, Ewert said.
Ewert said that as far as he knew, the Redding case of probable swine flu is the first one north of Yolo County.
Also, while the man’s lab results are technically classified as only “probable” for swine flu, Ewert said he’s fairly certain further tests will confirm swine flu, based upon what health officials refer to “tiers” that determine the likelihood that a probable will become a confirmed case.
Was the man in an area where others were infected with Swine Flu? Yes, said Ewert.
Did the preliminary rapid-influenza test – done with a nasal swab – show a more prevalent, seasonal influenza? No, said Ewert, which led to the likelihood of a non-seasonal influenza, such as H2N1.
Ewert said the man’s lab test will ultimately be confirmed in a few days after they return from where they were sent for analysis outside Shasta County.
Asked if it’s possible the passengers who flew with the Redding man from Mexico to the Bay Area could be at risk of contracting the same infection as the Redding man, Ewert said, “Absolutely.”
Meanwhile, although Shasta County health officials have no way of knowing how many more north state residents are currently in Mexico, Ewert said health agency officials are aware of some Shasta County citizens who’ve traveled there recently.
“We know there have been many churches that have sent many people to Mexico,” Ewert said. “We’ve checked and none have been ill, so we feel we’ve dodged a bullet there.”
Even so, Shasta County Health officials urge residents to use caution when choosing travel destinations. And they have stronger message for those who call the health department to ask if it’s safe to travel to Mexico.
“We tell them them our recommendation is to not go unless there’s a compelling reason – what we call non-essential travel,” Ewert said.
“Mexican officials feel their (swine flu) incidents have declined, but U.S. officials don’t feel as if we’ve reached our peak. We want to get the word out that it’s not over; not on the downside at all.”
With that in mind, Ewert said that if people visit a health facility, such as an emergency room, and there are people coughing, it’s a good idea for the public to request the coughing person wear a mask. Ewart said many of the area medical facilities have masks available.
Finally, according to the CDC, as of May 9, 44 states have reported a total 2,254 confirmed cases of Swine Flu, with two deaths. The CDC said California has 171 confirmed cases, and no deaths.
“People don’t need to be unduly worried,” Ewert said, though he did say that where/when there is a risk of infection, it’s wise to keep a distance of at least six feet from people, and be watchful of people who are coughing and sneezing. He added there’s good information online about how to prevent infection, as well as how to treat someone who’s ill with the flu.
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