CSULB Student Testing “Probable” for Swine Flu

Although there were still no confirmed cases of swine flu in Los Angeles County, a Cal State Long Beach student who became sick over the weekend was determined to be a "probable" victim of the illness, university officials said Wednesday.

The Long Beach Health Department told school officials Tuesday night that a student living in the school's Los Alamitos Residence Hall may have contracted the flu, although final test results won't be available for another two days, according to a statement on the university's Web site.

"The student is a resident who lives on campus. She has been moved into isolation in one of the residential halls. The areas she normally moved about have been disinfected, like her dorm room and bathroom," said university spokeswoman Toni Beron.

The student first fell ill on Sunday and visited a doctor the next day.

"She is doing very, very well. She has a very mild case and is recovering," Beron said. "Right now, we do not have reports of other students (with the disease)."

Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Dr. Jonathan Fielding has repeatedly said that the appearance of the disease in the county is inevitable, given the county's size and proximity to areas where the disease is known to be spreading.

State public health officials recommended Wednesday that school officials consider closing their doors for at least seven days if a student is discovered to have the swine flu or is a " highly suspect case."

"Decisions regarding broader school dismissals within these communities, in other words, (regarding) multiple or all school districts within a county, for example ... should be made by local authorities in coordination with us here at the Department of Public Health, taking into account the extent of flu-like illness or swine influenza in the community," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health.

Classes were not canceled at CSULB, but the student's classmates and teachers were being notified.

"It is also important to note that the student has not attended classes this week," according to the CSULB statement.

The university set up a hotline -- 562-985-1460 -- for students or parents looking for more information.

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Fielding said that although no cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Los Angeles County, samples from possible cases were being tested.

The nation's first swine flu death -- 23-month-old boy in Texas -- was announced this morning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The child was visiting from Mexico, the epicenter of the swine flu outbreak.

"It's terrible that there are any deaths from influenza," Fielding said, but he added that with 1,000 deaths occurring from regular influenza each year in Los Angeles County alone, it was not unexpected.

"It's particularly sad when it happens to a child, but I don't think it changes what we've seen as the pattern of the disease broadly in the United States," he said.

The total number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States stands at 91, according to the CDC, and more than 100 worldwide. In California, the state Department of Public Health and CDC report that there are 14 confirmed cases.

The World Health Organization boosted the pandemic alert level Wednesday from 4 to 5, one step below a full-blown pandemic.

The disease is most prevalent in Mexico, where about 2,000 people have developed influenza and 159 are suspected of having died from swine flu. However, only about 20 deaths have been confirmed to be the result of swine flu.

Fielding said residents should practice good hygiene and stay home if they become sick, but also said everyone should continue to live their lives as normally as possible.

"I don't see any reason not to ... go ahead and do the things you would normally do including the (upcoming) Cinco de Mayo celebrations and marches," he said.

County health officials said earlier they had been investigating possible flu clusters at schools in the Santa Clarita Valley and in San Pedro, but officials from the Castaic Union and Los Angeles Unified school districts said Wednesday there was no evidence of swine flu in either area.

Dr. Kimberly Uyeda, director of student medical services for LAUSD, said there were no clusters of students with flu-like symptoms or excessive absences at any San Pedro public schools.

"Several sick children were sent to a school nurse at an elementary school, however, all were cleared to stay in school," she said. "The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also determined that no investigation was necessary."

James Gibson, superintendent of the Castaic Union School School District, said some students were sick in the Santa Clarita area, but none of them tested positive for swine flu.

"We had a large number of kids that were out ill with flu-like symptoms, and when that happens, the county gets involved with their health organization and actually came out and contacted parents ... and then actually swabbed some kids," Gibson told KTLA. "And what we know as of today is all the children who were tested in the Castaic district did not have swine flu.

"Actually, a very small number of them had some influenza B and the rest of the kids were just ill with bad colds or other kinds of congestion in their chest," he said.

The county Board of Supervisors declared a local health emergency on Tuesday, authorizing Fielding to manage local, state and federal supplies and services with costs up to $500,000 for swine influenza-related activities.

Fielding and other county health officials said the disease is likely already present in the county, and just has not been reported.

The disease resembles regular influenza, so people may not distinguish it from a common flu, health officials said.

Horton, the CDPH director, said earlier this week that about one-fourth of the federal stockpile of 5 million courses of vaccines targeting the disease have been sent to Sacramento for possible distribution to local jurisdictions, if needed.

About 625,000 courses of antiviral medication were expected to be made available to Los Angeles County, adding to the county stockpile of 49,000, said Dr. Alonzo Plough, director of the Los Angeles County Public Health Emergency Response.

An additional 1.8 million courses in state and federal reserves could potentially also be made available to the county, he said.

Fielding said Tamiflu normally isn't given to flu sufferers with mild or moderate symptoms, as it would only help them reduce the time that they felt symptoms by about a day.

Instead, the cache will be reserved for people with severe illness and health care workers who have been exposed to the disease, he said.
 

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