Swine flu found in local man

Posted 5/6/09

A Douglas County man is one of the first people in the state to be diagnosed with the fast-spreading swine flu virus. A Parker Adventist Hospital …

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Swine flu found in local man


A Douglas County man is one of the first people in the state to be diagnosed with the fast-spreading swine flu virus.

A Parker Adventist Hospital spokeswoman confirmed that a man in his 40s was treated for the H1N1 flu strain and released April 30. The man is a baggage handler at Denver International Airport.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also announced a confirmed case of swine flu in Arapahoe County, but said the female victim was not admitted to a hospital. The woman had recently returned from a cruise to Mexico.

Officials could not identify either person because of privacy laws. The restrictions also preclude hospital personnel from talking about specific treatments or how a patient might have contracted the illness.

Earlier in the week, Parker Adventist’s infection-control preventionist, Aaron Williams, talked about the facility’s preparedness for the virus, unaware that it would be found in a patient at the hospital within days.

Dr. Todd Mydler, chief medical director at Parker Adventist Hospital, spoke about the hospital’s protocols in handling a patient with a respiratory illness that could be consistent with swine flu.

Those patients are immediately given a mask and instructed to wear it through the duration of their hospital stay. The protective masks have proven effective in preventing the spread of respiratory illness, Mydler said.

A swab test is then administered to detect the presence of influenza A or B. If the patient tests positive for influenza A, doctors are required to send the specimen to state health officials for further evaluation. State officials then decide whether to send the sample to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which determines if it is the H1N1 strain that has killed scores in Mexico and sickened dozens in the United States.

The World Health Organization raised the influenza pandemic alert from 4 to 5 this week, meaning all countries should be vigilant of a global pandemic.

Parker Adventist Hospital takes extra precautions, even if the illness has not yet been identified as the swine flu. Physicians determine and address each patient’s emergent needs and decide whether the person should be hospitalized or released. If they are admitted, the patient is placed in their own room with a special airflow management system. Although the hospital has standard protocols for respiratory illness, it is following more stringent guidelines because of the existing situation.

“We’re on increased surveillance, as asked of us through our state counterparts,” Mydler said. “We have to be proactive and treat [respiratory illness patients] with the potential that they have the virus.”

Once it is determined that the patient has the H1N1 flu virus, doctors immediately begin using anti-viral medications, like Oseltamivir, a generic version of Tamiflu. Family members who might have been exposed to the illness are not instructed to seek medical attention unless they are exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

The patient is discharged “when they no longer have an illness that’s requiring hospitalization,” Mydler said, adding the ill are told to promptly call a doctor if symptoms return.

Those known to be carrying swine flu can be infectious for up to seven days from the onset of symptoms. Doctors encourage those patients to isolate themselves from the public and stay at home

Health officials are stressing the importance of washing hands and covering sneezes or coughs that could produce droplets. The virus can live on a fixed object, such as a door handle, for up to two hours, Mydler said.

The most important aspect of addressing a highly communicable virus for a hospital is education, he said.

“We’re trying to provide resources and education to community members,” the medical director said. “The hospital is working closely with our sister facilities and state health authorities to be on the forefront of addressing health concerns.”

For prevention tips and other information about the H1N1 virus, visit www.who.int/en/.



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