'Probable' swine flu case hits region
By DARCIE HOENIG and CHRISTINIA CRIPPES
The Hawk Eye
Swine flu may have made its way into Iowa, and a Des Moines County woman is one of
two probable cases.
At a press conference Wednesday, Iowa Department of Public Health Director Tom
Newton said the woman -- who recently returned from Mexico -- may carry the H1N1
virus, also known as swine flu.
The other case involves a California resident who visited Scott and Clinton counties last
The cases have not yet been confirmed and neither has required hospitalization, but state
officials expect results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta
today. The samples originally were sent to the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory
and were shipped to the CDC for further testing.
State health officials are investigating another 110 samples for possible infection and
continue to receive samples from across Iowa.
"Now that we believe that the virus has been introduced into the state, we anticipate it
will spread across Iowa," Newton said. "Laboratory confirmation is still pending, but we
do anticipate seeing more cases in Iowa."
The CDC has confirmed 91 cases of swine flu in 10 states. One case has resulted in the
death of a 23-month-old boy from Mexico City who was visiting relatives in Texas.
Newton said during the early infectious stages of the disease, both individuals in Iowa
were out and about in the community, including working at their jobs.
According to a Great River Medical Center e-mail, the Des Moines County case involves
a 35-year-old Burlington woman who has symptoms consistent with swine flu. She was
seen at the Burlington Area Family Practice Center and reportedly is recovering at home
and doing well.
Des Moines County Public Health Director Barb Baker said her department was notified
of the case Wednesday morning, after results came back from the University of Iowa
Hygienic Laboratory. Baker and Des Moines County Emergency Management
representatives then met with Burlington School District officials to review the district's
pandemic influenza response plan, though no cases are suspected in students or staff.
Baker said if a case is suspected locally, she will make the decision whether to close
schools after consulting the IDPH.
"If you cancel school, what are the kids going to do? They're just going to go someplace
and congregate," Baker said. "You have to weigh all those issues before you make a
major decision like that."
Notre Dame and Burlington schools sent a letter home to parents Wednesday with
information about the press conference and virus.
Newton said the state has about 425,000 doses of an antiviral, and the federal government
could provide another 750,000 doses.
"It's spread by human contact," Gov. Chet Culver said. "The steps people take every day
to keep themselves from getting the common flu bug can be used to prevent initial
infection in this instance."
To help prevent illness, the public is encouraged to avoid contact with ill people and
cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. After coughing or
sneezing, one should wash their hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand
gel. People who display flu-like symptoms should stay home from work or school and
should contact their doctor.
Patricia Quinlisk, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Public Health, said the
virus spreads like the seasonal flu. Symptoms include a body temperature of more than
100 degrees Fahrenheit, coughing and a sore throat.
"Fortunately, most people are using precautions, so what we're seeing are seeing around
the country is primarily spread to their families and their close contacts," she said.
Burlington Superintendent Lee Morrison said the school district has increased sanitation
measures in its buildings to fight potential illness.
Quinlisk said typically people in the United States who have been getting ill have felt the
flu coming on for a couple days, then a couple days of illness. She said they generally are
contagious until 24 hours after symptoms appear.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has set up a toll-free, 24-hour hotline for
questions regarding swine flu. That number is 1-800-447-1985. More information on
swine influenza is available at www.governor.iowa.gov and www.idph.state.ia.us.