Local swine flu count grows by 4
POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2009
Four more swine flu cases in Hawaii have been confirmed, including two at Anuenue School, bringing the state's total to 10, health and education officials reported yesterday.
The state health department today reported four new confirmed cases of H1-N1 flu in Hawaii, including two cases at Anuenue School in Palolo.
Three cases were confirmed by the state Department of Health Laboratories Division and one case was confirmed by the Washington State Public Health Laboratory, the Health Department said.
Two adults and an adolescent with no history of recent travel, all Oahu residents, were confirmed in Hawaii, health officials said. All are recovering or have recovered at home.
Department of Education officials said two of the cases involved an adult and a child at Anuenue School, a Hawaiian-immersion facility in Palolo. Both are recovering from an apparently mild case of the flu, according to the Department of Education.
Household members and other close contacts of the confirmed cases are being identified, notified and tested if they have symptoms that meet the criteria for influenza illness, health officials said.
A Maui adult tested positive in Washington after becoming ill there and a brief hospitalization but has recovered and will return home after a period of required isolation, they said.
"It is not unusual for us to find additional cases of novel H1N1 Influenza A as this nationwide outbreak continues," said state Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino. "The numbers are not as important at this point as the severity of the illness and recovery of the cases. We continue to urge people to follow recommendations and stay at home if they are sick, wash hands frequently and cover your cough."
Anuenue School is remaining open and activities will go on as scheduled, according to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Health Department. Staff members took measures to disinfect the campus and letters were being sent home to parents, the department said.
Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said, "When a case of H1N1 is confirmed, the DOH must contact individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. We strongly encourage staff and families to extend their full cooperation to the Health Department during this process."
Events celebrating achievements of students and staff members will be held during the next few weeks, the Department of Education said, urging any student or staff member who develops flu-like symptoms not to attend school events or go into the community except for medical care.
One University may be opting to go handshake free while another is going ahead with tradition swine flu or no flu.
Until yesterday, the state had six confirmed swine flu cases, including one University of Hawaii at Manoa student who was isolated in her dormitory after becoming ill. "UH officials facilitated her isolation by bringing her meals," said state epidemiologist Sarah Park. "She's perfectly fine now."
There is "strong evidence" of ongoing local transmission and introduction of influenza via travel, Park said, urging residents, as well as school staff and students, to protect themselves with a healthy lifestyle, good nutrition and hygiene.
Health officials worldwide fear the virus could become a pandemic. So far, 63 deaths have been confirmed as linked to the virus: 58 in Mexico; three in the U.S.; one in Canada; and one in Costa Rica. There have been an estimated 6,257 confirmed swine flu cases in 33 countries, including 3,352 in 45 U.S. states, 2,282 in Mexico and 358 in Canada, according to the Associated Press.
No handshakes, just back-patting at UH graduation
Swine flu fears are leading to some changes at the University of Hawaii at Manoa graduation ceremonies Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"Since we know that keeping our hands clean is one important way of reducing the possible spread of such viruses, there will be hand-wipes and hand-washing stations available and we will also forego the traditional handshake and introduce another sign of congratulations for this ceremony," said Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw.
UH spokesman Gregg Takayama said instead of a handshake, students will be given "an appropriate pat on the back or shoulder."
Of the 10 confirmed swine flu cases in Hawaii so far, one has been a UH student living in the Hale Wainani dormitory.
"We want everyone to feel comfortable in attending this important event, so, as an educational institution, we will demonstrate the practices that we have been advising our community to follow in protecting against the possible spread of any virus, including the H1N1 influenza virus currently present in Hawaii," she said.
Anyone who is ill with flu-like symptoms should stay home and not attend this ceremony or any other gathering, UH advised, noting that the ceremonies can be watched on a live Web cast at manoa.hawaii.edu/commencement/.
More than 1,500 bachelor's candidates are eligible to attend the undergraduate ceremony at 9 a.m., while nearly 800 graduate degree candidates are eligible to participate in the ceremony at 3 p.m., UH officials said.
Updates on confirmed cases will be posted each day at 10 a.m. on the Health Department's Web site at www.hawaii.gov/health (click on H1N1 Swine Flu Information).