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Investigators to probe how 6 in county got flu

Citizen Staff Writer



Pima County Health Department workers will begin investigating this week how four people on the Tohono O’odham Nation and two in the Tucson area came down with swine flu.

“Now we will move more to what is called an active surveillance,” said Patti Woodcock, a department spokeswoman. “We will work with the schools to see if any other kids came down with the illness.”

The six cases of swine flu, also known as H1N1, were confirmed in Pima County on Saturday. All have recovered.

The two in the Tucson area are students, according to school officials.

The Marana student who contracted the flu attends Tortolita Middle School, said Tamara Crawley, a Marana Unified School District spokeswoman.

The student is expected to return to class Monday, Crawley said.

Tortolita Middle School, 4101 W. Hardy Road, and all other Marana district schools will remain open, Crawley said.

The other student attends Safford Magnet Middle School, 200 E. 13th St., said Chyrl Hill Lander, a Tucson Unified School District spokeswoman.

Lander did not say whether that child would return to school this week, but said all TUSD schools will remain open.

Lander said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the county department are not recommending the closure of schools.

However, 10 public schools in the border city of Nogales are closing for a week as a precaution after a student tested positive for swine flu.

There has been one confirmed death from the swine flu in the United States, a Mexican toddler who visited Texas with his family.

Health workers will try to learn who the victims here associated with before they became ill and will check the health history of family members and friends, Woodcock said.

In spite of those efforts, Woodcock said, health investigators easily may never learn how the six people here contracted the flu.

None of the six was hospitalized, Pima County and Tohono O’odham health authorities said at a Sunday news conference.

Another 11 potential cases are pending analysis at an Arizona lab, said Dr. Michelle McDonald, the county Health Department’s chief medical officer.

Of those infected on the O’odham Nation, one is a 3-year-old, two are high-school-age children and one is about 20 years old, said Andrew Lorentine, assistant manager for community health and public health preparedness manager for the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The flu outbreak here “is nowhere near as alarming . . . as we initially feared,” McDonald said at the news conference, held at 11 a.m. at the county Health Department, 3950 S. Country Club Road.

Laboratory testing has confirmed 18 cases of swine flu in Arizona, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 36,000 people die each year in the United States from the regular flu and complications, authorities have said.

McDonald said health authorities advise people to frequently wash their hands and cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze or cough.

People with flu symptoms, a cough, respiratory discomfort, body aches and fever are advised not to go to school or work, or go to an emergency room where they could spread the flu to other people.

Instead, McDonald said, they should call their doctor, clinic or a call center for advice on how to get treatment.

Anti-viral flu treatment medication, which does not prevent the flu, has been stockpiled in the county since last week, Daniels said.

Call centers are being staffed to help people who feel ill or have a family member with flu symptoms and are concerned about what to do, said Sherry Daniels, director of the county Health Department.

It’s not the first time in recent years that Pima has dealt with an outbreak.

Last summer, the county had 13 confirmed cases of measles, with four more probable, health authorities said.

A news release by the county department last year said:

• About 2,500 people were potentially exposed to measles and told to obtain post-exposure treatment and quarantine if they were not immune.

• 500 suspected cases required evaluation and observation throughout the incubation period.

• 9,000 immunization shots were given in the 30 special clinics set up by the county.

The measles came to the county in February 2008 by way of a Swiss tourist, the release said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

2 area school kids are among 6 infected with swine flu in Pima County

• ONLINE: For more on swine flu, go to www.tucsoncitizen.com/flu

• WORST OVER? Top health officials in Mexico say that the epidemic there is “declining.” Page 8A


Think you may have swine flu?

If you feel ill, you can get advice at the following numbers:

• Pima County call center, 243-7808, or 866-939-7462. The county call center is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday,

• The Tohono O’odham Nation, call center 24 hours, daily at 877-606-9301.

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