Monday Apr 27 2009
Swine flu confirmed close to Placer County
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Medical face mask sales pick up in Auburn as CDC confirms Fair Oaks teen’s case
Swine flu originating in Mexico is now in Placer County’s back yard, with a local teenager testing positive for the disease and his Fair Oaks school closed down Monday by Sacramento County health officials. Responding to the spread of the flu into California – and now Northern California – Placer County issued a statement shortly before noon advising people to cover their coughs, wash their hands and avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth. The reminder used U.S. Centers for Disease Control advice and stated there is no vaccine currently available to prevent the flu but that some antiviral medications have been helpful to patients. The Placer County release said that the Fair Oaks case was awaiting laboratory confirmation but an 11 a.m. statement from Sacramento County quoted Public Health Officer Dr. Glenna Trochet that the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the sample sent to their lab Saturday was positive for swine flu. The sample was collected from a student at St. Mel school in Fair Oaks and represents the first confirmed sample in Northern California. There may be more cases at the Fair Oaks school. Samples from three other children at St. Mel who were ill during the week of April 20-24 will be tested at the Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory. Already in Auburn, at least one pharmacy is seeing an increase in the purchase of medical face masks. But Dr. Mark Vaughan of the Auburn Medical Group said that while they may help, if an outbreak does spread, they wouldn’t provide complete protection. And a Placer County Office of Education official said most schools are putting out information to parents on precautions to take and signs of swine flu to look for. Skyridge Pharmacy’s Bonnie Husak said that there hadn’t been a run on the masks yet but that the number sold had stepped up since Friday. “The last two ladies got extras for a cruise,” Husak said. “They were going to hand them out to others.” Vaughan said the masks are relatively inexpensive and may help. But they don’t protect the eyes, which also are vulnerable as a receptor of the flu virus, he said. “But we’re not to the point where I would tell patients to go out and get them now,” Vaughan said. “That could change. This flu does have the potential to change rapidly, either by spreading or mutating into something else.” Typically, the flu season is over at this point in the spring, Vaughan said. “This is a unique virus that is working on its own timetable,” he said. “It has sort of come out of nowhere.” If the disease spreads into Placer County then people should be even more vigilant with hand washing and avoid crowds, Vaughan said. “Thankfully it’s not yet in Placer County,” he said. James Anderberg, executive director of administrative services for county schools, said the schools are trying to be proactive as they alert parents. They’re attempting to make sure people don’t panic while making them more watchful of their children’s health, he said. The Associated Press reported Monday that the flu is suspected in the deaths of 103 people in Mexico. There have been more than 40 confirmed cases in the United States, including eight in California. This story will be updated as more information becomes available. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at email@example.com.