"No Swine Flu Here" Doctors Tell King County Council

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by Scott Schaefer

Monday afternoon (4/27), the King County Council held a special session on the swine flu with public health experts, who reassured councilmembers that despite heightened monitoring, the swine flu that recently originated in Mexico has not yet spread to the area.

No cases of swine flu have yet to be reported in Burien, let alone King County or the entire state of Washington, according to Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. He said the 40 cases confirmed in the U.S. have been mild, with no serious illnesses or deaths.

“At Public Health we are actively preparing with our partners for the real possibility of swine flu here in our region,” said Dr. Fleming. “Whether or not swine flu arrives in King County, now is the time to get prepared. The more we are all prepared at home, the better we’ll be able to respond and recover.”

He said Public Health has asked local health care providers to notify them of suspected swine flu cases and has made arrangements with the state Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the submittal of suspect lab specimens.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Disease Control Officer for Communicable Disease at Public Health – Seattle & King County, said the CDC has asked to receive all suspect lab specimens to ensure that cases that may appear as seasonal flu are not in fact the new strain of swine flu. He also said local providers are being advised on how to screen patients who present flu-like symptoms and that Public Health will investigate any cases of severe unexplained respiratory illness. Dr. Duchin said Public Health is recommending that the public not seek health care that they would not otherwise seek.

“Today I was pleased to hear that King County is as prepared as any jurisdiction in the event of a pandemic flu,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, chair of the King County Board of Health. “However, I am concerned that given the cuts proposed in the state budget and impending cuts to the County budget, our health department will have reduced capacity to respond to emergencies in the future.”

“The Council’s work in recent years calling for a pandemic flu response plan and stockpiling of Tamiflu means we are mobilized and ready to respond if swine flu strikes King County,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, sponsor of legislation to create a Pandemic Flu Preparedness Plan for King County.

Dr. Fleming said the framework already laid out by the King County Council for the County’s comprehensive planning for pandemic flu will provide effective guidance and that the current response will provide useful lessons for updating the plan. The Council in 2007 adopted the Pandemic Flu Preparedness Plan that recognizes:

  • the County’s role in regional public health and emergency management response.
  • the County’s duty as both a regional service provider and a local service provider for continued provision of police and paramedics, bus service, wastewater treatment and other public services in the event of a pandemic flu, and
  • the County’s duty as a large employer to ensure that its own workplaces help prevent the spread of pandemic flu.

At Sea-Tac Airport, there’s no unusual alert or extra screenings of passengers yet, according to Port of Seattle spokesman Perry Cooper.

However, the airport does have a quarantine zone at the south satellite that has room for several hundred people. Apparently it’s only been used once before during a screening for avian flu.

Alaska Airlines flies daily to and from Mexico, and the next plane from Mexico City is due to arrive Wednesday.

More information about emergency health preparedness can be found at www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/preparedness/pandemicflu.aspx.

For more information on Swine Flu, visit this website.

Here’s a “Swine Flu” map that shows that the nearest cases were up in Vancouver, B.C. and involved two men who had recently traveled to Mexico:

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

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