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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Hits Minnesota

First case of swine flu in Minnesota 'probable'

How Hwee Young, EPA/AP

A health official screens a shipping crew arriving in Singapore today. Singapore is currently free from the virus.

Officials are reporting the first probable case of swine flu in Minnesota, prompting two schools in Cold Spring to close today. Officials will discuss the state's response at 9 a.m.


Last update: April 29, 2009 - 8:52 AM
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Conspiracy theories and paranoia.........
Wash your hands-for atleast 1 minute if out in public. Don't turn off the water with your clean hands, use a paper towel to shut off and … read more open the bathroom door. KEEP YOUR hands out of your eyes and mouth as well. If your in a public area known for this virus it would be best to avoid that area at all costs. Most colds and flus are spread by droplet infection. Inotherwords by way of the mouth and nose. And, by all means STAY HOME if you are sick. A smart EMPLOYER will understand and THANK YOU. An IGNORANT one will do whatever they want to anyways.

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Officials are reporting the first probable case of swine flu in Minnesota, prompting two schools in Cold Spring to close today.

Doug Schmitz, mayor of the town about 80 miles northwest of the Twin Cities said details on the case remain sketchy.

"From people I've talked to no one seems really alarmed, though that could change once we get details," Schmitz said. "At this point, everyone's staying calm."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and state health officials planned a news conference this morning to provide details about the case.

The Minnesota Department of Health has characterized the case as "probable" -- meaning that the department confirmed the virus as type A influenza, but the strain cannot be identified using the department's standard lab tests.

Additional testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine whether the unidentified patient had the unusual new strain of influenza.

Health officials have said that because of the spread worldwide of in light of developments around the world H1N1 cases were to be expected in Minnesota, but that plans are in place to address the public health challenges these cases will bring.

As a result of the probable case, the Rocori Middle School and St. Boniface School in Cold Spring have been voluntarily closed for the day by local officials.

In an email sent overnight to parents by Rocori Supt. Scott Staska, he wrote: "An individual from the Rocori Middle School site has been experiencing "flu-like symptoms" of an undetermined flu strain. According to the information shared with me, the symptoms of the individual are not alarming but the flu strain was determined to need further characterization at Centers for Disease Control. The individual is recovering without complications."

The decision to close the school today "is a very precautionary measure," he wrote, adding, "there is not, at this time, cause for alarm. The symptoms experienced by the individual, in this case, are not unusual nor severe."

Staska and other district officials planned to hold a press conference on the case late this morning. Neither they, nor state officials have specified whether the patient is a student or staff member at the school.

St. Boniface, a Catholic elementary school, closed as a precaution because it sends nearly 275 students across the parking lot to the middle school for music instruction, physical education classes and lunch.

"We felt that in the interests of the safety of our children and the comfort zone for the parents ... we would take these precautionary measures until what we ascertain what we're dealing with," said the principal, Sister Sharon Waldoch.

Waldoch said she knows of no suspected swine flu cases involving her student body or staff members.

"It's never an easy decision" to cancel classes, said Waldoch, pointing out that it forces many parents to make day care arrangements on short notice. "However, I knew the parents would be supportive."

As for what the school does next, Waldoch said she will wait for instruction from state health officials. In the meantime, she is "definitely" hopeful that the school can reopen Thursday.

Earlier today the CDC confirmed the nation's first swine flu death in the current outbreak, a 23-month-old child in Texas.

The first swine flu death outside of Mexico was confirmed by CDC spokesman Dave Daigle.

The acting head of the CDC called the confirmation tragic, but said it's too soon to say just how fast the swine flu virus is spreading.

Dr. Richard Besser said in a nationally broadcast network interview that health authorities had anticipated that the virus would cause deaths, and said that "as a pediatrician and a parent, my heart goes out to the family."

But Besser said on NBC's "Today" show that it's too soon to say if the death in Texas suggests the virus is spreading to more states. Nor would he say whether officials think it will become a nationwide problem.

He also said he does not believe the flu strain has become more dangerous.

Besser went on to note that even with seasonal flu, there are always some people who can't resist it very well, and said authorities need to learn more about the threat.

Staff writer Paul Walsh and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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