'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 week. 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.