Strategy to control swine flu changing

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Stories about the swine flu reached a fever pitch when it first made its appearance in Utah. Health officials held news conferences and schools shut down, but not anymore. We get calls daily from parents wanting to know why schools aren't doing more to prevent the spread of the swine flu.

In April, you'll recall the Park City School District shut down classes for several days because a handful of students were merely suspected of having the swine flu. With confirmed cases in schools all over the state now, some parents are confused.

David Kinney is panicked. He's got one son showing symptoms of the swine flu and two others he's watching. He also got an e-mail Tuesday from his son's school.


There are eight confirmed cases. Kinney said, "It went from being three when they first heard it to being five then eight. What percentage are we looking at have to become infected before they shut it down?"

We went to the Salt Lake Valley Health Department to get those answers and more. Salt Lake Valley Health Department Executive Director Gary Edwards said, "The schools that were closed early were closed because the recommendation was if there was one case then you close, and that recommendation has changed."

It's changed because health officials know more about the virus now than they did a month ago, and what they know is it's acting much like the seasonal flu.

Kinney's son was told to take Tamiflu, but when Kinney went to his pharmacy they didn't have any. "It's being controlled by the health department," Kinney said. That statement is partially true.

Edwards said, "We have received in Utah, 25 percent of our allotted stockpile. That came in the first couple of day during the outbreak in the country. That portion of Tamiflu is being controlled by the health department; however, there are supplies in the private sector."

Next question: who's actually being tested? Kinney heard this: "Testing done by the state is done on a case by case basis." That statement is true. But Edwards says the state lab will change how it's testing for the H1N1 virus. "Beginning next week, they will only be testing those who are hospitalized," he said.

So why the change in strategy? Health department officials say in the beginning they had no idea how this virus was going to act, each confirmed case was cause for concern and tracked. But, they've found the H1N1 virus is behaving much like the seasonal flu; that makes the swine flu much less scary and less deadly than first thought.


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Lori Prichard


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