Colorado confirms 2 cases of swine flu
DENVER ” The swine flu outbreak has arrived in Colorado, with two confirmed cases ” a baggage handler at the Denver airport and a woman who traveled to Mexico, state officials said Thursday.
The baggage handler, a man in his 40s who lives in Douglas County south of Denver, was hospitalized but is expected to be released Thursday, officials said. They said it was unlikely he got the virus from baggage.
“The virus doesn’t last too long on inanimate surfaces,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, director of the Denver Public Health Department.
The woman is in her 30s and lives in Arapahoe County southeast of Denver. She went on a cruise to Mexico and spent several days in San Diego, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said.
She wasn’t hospitalized, said Dr. Ned Calonge (kuh-LANZH’), the department’s chief medical officer.
Both got sick April 26. Health officials couldn’t say whether the woman passed through Denver International Airport on her Mexico trip but conceded it was likely. They insisted that the airport is safe and that precautions beyond good hygiene are unnecessary for air travelers.
For days, Denver International Airport has been offering information in English and Spanish to employees and passengers on the disease. Airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said nothing had changed Thursday.
Southwest Airlines spokesman Paul Flaningan said the airline was ready to offer gloves to baggage handlers if they want them. Frontier Airlines was sticking with existing plans, including on-plane kits for crews who have sick fliers.
All hard surfaces in lavatories are wiped down with an anti-bacterial wipe after every flight, and each plane gets a heavy cleaning each day, Frontier spokesman Steve Snyder said.
A spokesman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the agency hasn’t kept track of whether other swine flue victims worked at airports or for airlines.
Colorado authorities were awaiting confirmation on “a handful” of additional possible swine flu cases in Colorado. Colange expected results as soon as Thursday afternoon. He couldn’t say how many additional suspected cases there are, or where.
Calonge said Colorado health officials are at the CDC in Atlanta for training and testing kits so the state can do its own testing for swine flu instead of sending samples out of state.
They said tests have been coming back in about 24 hours, and that flu testing would get even faster by the end of the week, when testing supplies are in Colorado.
Health officials urged people who feel sick not to seek tests or medical help unless their symptoms are more severe than an average bout of flu.
“We are asking people with mild flu-like symptoms to stay home” to avoid overwhelming emergency rooms, Calonge said.
There were no immediate plans to start dispensing the 167,000 doses of antiviral medication Colorado has as part of a federal stockpile in case of pandemic, Calonge said. Against federal recommendations, Colorado has not added to the federal stockpile because of cost and questions about how effective the medicines would prove in a pandemic.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said at a separate event Thursday that the state has no reason to worry about the stockpile, even if swine flu spreads.
“By any estimate we have plenty of the appropriate medicine available and ready,” Hickenlooper said.
Dr. Richard Vogt, head of the Tri-County Health Department, which includes Douglas and Arapahoe counties, said schools don’t appear to be at risk. Both swine flu victims and their families have been interviewed, and so far they don’t appear to have been in contact with school-age children.
“There’s no linkage of these two cases with schools at this time, nor do we think there will be,” Vogt said of the Colorado cases.
Nationwide, more than 100 schools have closed to prevent the flu’s spread after pupils got sick.
The CDC and officials in 16 states have confirmed at least 120 cases. They are in New York, Texas, California, South Carolina, Delaware and scattered cases in Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia and Maine.
Swine flu has killed one person in the U.S., a toddler from Mexico who died in Texas on a family trip.
The World Health Organization increased its tally of confirmed swine flu cases around the world to 257.
WHO said most of the new confirmed cases worldwide came from Mexico.
Colorado lawmakers were scheduled to get a briefing from state health officials on swine flu later Thursday. Lawmakers are reviewing their plans to keep the Legislature functioning during an epidemic.
Associated Press writers Catherine Tsai and Ivan Moreno contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/epr
Centers for Disease Control swine flu page: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/
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