As more information becomes known about the current swine flu outbreak, public health officials are changing their recommendations about how organizations such as Shoreline Community College should respond.
“We’re no longer recommending schools close when they have a confirmed case (of swine flu),” Matias Valenzuela, spokesman for Public Health - Seattle & King County, said Thursday, May 14, 2009. “In fact, we’re no longer alerting schools."
Valenzuela added that the agency is no longer collecting tracking type data about new cases of swine flu because, " We know it's here."
Valenzuela acknowledged that early in the outbreak - the first cases in King County were reported April 27 – officials were exercising caution over this new strain of flu. The majority of cases in King County are affecting young people, ages 10-19. Some of those were in public schools, which quickly closed as a response to containing the spread of illness
“Now, this is playing out like a typical flu season,” he said. King County has confirmed 162 cases of swine flu as of May 14, 2009, but Matias said health officials know the actual number is higher. “This flu is turning out to be relatively mild. We’re sure that there are cases out there where people may not even realize they are sick.”
According to the federal Center for Disease Control, swine flu is in 47 states with 4,298 confirmed and suspected cases across the country. Three people with the flu have died, including one person in Snohomish County who had multiple other serious health issues, according to health officials there.
Matias said health officials are now recommending taking the normal precautions outlined for a normal flu season. Those precautions are to “practice good health behaviors,” he said.
Shoreline Community College officials met April 28 to review emergency procedures. As part of that review, the college did take some actions, including:
Posting new posters on hand-washing and germ-containment practices in all restrooms
Making sure all restrooms are well-stocked with soap and paper towels
Reinforced focus on custodial practices such as:
In addition, officials for campus food-service vendor, Chartwells, reviewed their procedures, said Matt Johnson, the on-campus manager.
“Normal food-service handling requirements are designed to guard against germs, so we reinforced those," Johnson said. "In addition, any employee who is sick for any reason will stay home for five days and any employee who travels to a swine-flu hot zone will stay away form work for seven days after returning.”
What is swine flu?
H1N1 virus, also known as "swine flu" and "swine Influenza A" is a virus that can spread from people who are infected to others through coughs and sneezes. When people cough or sneeze, they spread germs through the air or onto surfaces that other people may touch. H1N1 virus is not transmitted from pigs to humans or from eating pork products.
Confirmed human cases of swine flu have been reported in multiple states. Internationally, there are reported outbreaks in Mexico, Canada and other countries around the world. While some cases have resulted in deaths, most H1N1 human swine flu infections have been mild. Still, health officials are closely monitoring and responding aggressively to the outbreaks in an ongoing effort to reduce the spread and severity of illness.