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Sequim woman had swine flu

Clallam County's first swine flu sufferer had recovered before her condition was confirmed last week.

Dr. Tom Locke, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said the Sequim woman's case was typical of the disease.

"As with almost all cases, people recover uneventfully," he told the Sequim Gazette on Friday.

Swine flu's mildness is a factor in its transmission, Locke said.

"By virtue of its mildness, this flu strain is spreading pretty easily. People can have this without having significant symptoms."

Locke said the woman lived in Sequim but works in Port Angeles, where she was tested.

After testing positive for an A-type influenza, her culture was sent to the state public health lab in Shoreline.

Locke said his purpose in announcing the case was not to alarm people but to inform them.

"Our message to people is that when we get these confirmed cases the virus is circulating in the community."

The Clallam County Health Department plans no quarantines or school closures, he said.

The woman also was typical of swine flu sufferers in that she is young, according to Locke.

"There's a real tilt toward younger populations," with a median age of 13, and most cases occurring in people 50 years old and younger."

Older persons appear to possess an immunity, he said, indicating that an earlier seasonal flu epidemic or a past vaccine may have made them resistant to swine flu.

Symptoms can include gastrointestinal distress - nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in a quarter of the cases - with typical flu symptoms of cough and fever in the other 75 percent.

In any case, "stay home if you're sick," Locke said.

"Any fever with cough or sore throat, people should stay home, and kids should be kept home from school."

Sufferers - and people who may not know they are ill - can help fight the spread of the disease by washing their hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol gel and by covering coughs.

Locke said swine flu might be called a pandemic if it were more lethal. As it is, it poses a serious threat mostly to elders, people with chronic heart or lung ailments, pregnant women and children younger than 5.

"It's the first of this class," he said of the virus that is a genetic mix of swine, human and bird flu strains.

Jim Casey is editor of the Sequim Gazette. Reach him at jcasey@sequimgazette.com.



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