Health officials suspect they have found 2 more cases of swine flu


POSTED: Thursday, May 07, 2009

Two new “;probable”; cases of H1N1 flu virus, or swine flu, have been identified by the state Health Department, with specimens sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation, health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said yesterday.

;[Preview]  Two New Swine Flu Cases In Hawaii

The state health department found two more adults with the Swine Flu and have isolated themselves to recovery.

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Three cases have been confirmed already.

She said the department is investigating the cases, involving two Oahu adults, and has no information on the circumstances. It isn't known if they are related or whether they had recently traveled, but both are recovering at home, she said.

The department's Disease Investigation Branch found the cases during “;enhanced influenza surveillance,”; she said. The epidemiologists are examining clinical data from commercial laboratories to see if any influenza cases were missed or not reported, she said.

“;We're fortunate to have a good partnership with commercial laboratories,”; she said. “;Other states are looking at what Hawaii has done. We are looking at the labs as the first screening, sending things to the state laboratory.”;

Hawaii hospitals and health-care facilities, meanwhile, have moved from “;level zero”; to “;level one minus”; after 12 days of preparations for a potential H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak.

They are taking some actions recommended by the CDC to protect patients and facilities, said Toby Clairmont, emergency program manager for the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, which represents all the state's hospitals and health-care providers.

He said facilities were at a zero level while assembling supplies, activating a surveillance system, training people statewide and making other preparations.

They stepped up to level one yesterday, adding the “;minus”; because certain things aren't being done, such as deploying caches of equipment, teams or portable hospitals or operating a 24-hour emergency center, Clairmont said.

He said the level change was prompted by CDC guidance on what hospitals and health-care organizations should be doing to prevent introduction of influenza to patients and hospitals.

It wasn't triggered by CDC's confirmation of three isle cases, he said, pointing out they didn't originate here. A soldier came home from Texas with the flu and exposed his wife, and an unrelated child became ill after traveling to California. All have recovered.

Clairmont said the association has three priorities: to protect health-care workers, patients, facilities and operations; to assist with community disease surveillance; and “;to prepare for tomorrow, whatever that may be.”;

Preparations are continuing in case of a flare-up of swine flu beyond seasonal flu, he said.

“;We're not predicting it will happen, but guidance says we must do things,”; he said. “;What we're doing is modest, very conservative with what we're seeing in the community. No one should be alarmed by it.”;

Teleconferences are being held to discuss everything from the financial implications of an emergency to clinical care, and work groups are doing specific planning and execution, he said. All laboratory managers are meeting today; all nurse leaders from emergency rooms will meet tomorrow; and infection- control coordinators from hospitals will meet Tuesday.

Residents who go to a nursing home, hospital or clinic to visit a patient or for any other reason may be asked to sanitize their hands, and there might be restrictions on where they can go, he said.

Patients in nursing homes are particularly vulnerable, and a virus introduced into the patient population could have serious consequences, he said.

He said the emergency management program has stockpiles of items that will be in high demand, such as respirators and masks, special ventilators and things that are not usual medical supplies but might be needed in an infectious disease outbreak.