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Heightened local monitoring is underway for swift detection of swine flu, King County Council is told


Public Health recommending no changes in how or when people seek health care


Members of the Metropolitan King County Council today expressed satisfaction with the heightened local monitoring and other steps being taken by Public Health in connection with the current outbreak of swine flu.

“I moved quickly to schedule today’s briefing to reassure the public that King County has already completed the groundwork to prepare for a serious influenza outbreak,” said Council Chair Dow Constantine. “I was pleased to hear that King County stands ready to respond to outbreaks as a public health service provider, as an emergency management responder, and as a major employer.”

"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.”

Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, told the Council that no cases of swine flu have been reported in King County and the state of Washington as of today. 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 swift and seamless submittal of suspect lab specimens for testing and confirmation.

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.

“There are no reports of cases in our region, but today’s briefing is a reminder of the safeguards we already have in place to protect the public if there is a major influenza outbreak,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, who serves on the King County Board of Health.

“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.

“King County’s proactive efforts in public health planning, including the purchase of Tamiflu in 2006, provide a solid foundation for addressing developments such as swine flu,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson. “These proactive efforts will play a key role in keeping King County citizens safe and healthy.”

“Preparation for a flu pandemic includes staying at home when you are sick, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing measures,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, a member of the Board of Health. “This situation is a good reminder that everyone always should be prepared for any emergency, with a supply of food, water and any medications you regularly take.” Lambert said more information about emergency preparedness can be found at the Public Health Web site.

“It is necessary that the residents of King County are notified about the swine flu outbreak and local steps being taken to prepare,” said Councilmember Peter von Reichbauer. “Although no local cases have been reported as of today in King County, we want to make sure everyone has the information they need to identify the symptoms in order to prevent the spread of this rare flu.”

The CDC reports a total of 40 confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) infection from California, Texas, New York City, Ohio and Kansas. Human cases of swine influenza virus infection also have been identified internationally.

Public Health also contributed the following fact sheet in connection with today’s briefing:

When should I seek medical care?
At this time, Public Health - Seattle & King County recommends people use their usual decision-making criteria about when to seek medical care.
• If you are mildly ill with flu-like symptoms and would not ordinarily go to the doctor, do not seek medical care at this time.
• If you are feeling very ill with flu-like symptoms, seek medical care as you would under ordinary circumstances.
• If you recently returned from an area where there are confirmed swine flu cases and feel ill with flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider.

What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people. The CDC has determined that the current swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

Good opportunity to get prepared at home and work
This is an excellent time to get prepared at home and work because there are no cases of flu in King County or Washington. 

Everyday behaviors to stay healthy
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• To further prevent the spread of germs, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Avoid close contact with sick people

• Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

If you get sick with Influenza
• If you get sick, Public Health - Seattle & King County strongly recommends that you stay home from work or school so you can get better and keep others from getting sick.
• Also, if you get sick remain at home and avoid contact with others until 7 days after your first symptoms began or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

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