RENO — The 2-year-old Reno area girl who today became Nevada’s first confirmed swine flu case is “playing like a normal child” at home, an adult cousin of the toddler said during an evening news conference at the Washoe County Health District.
“She has a bit of a cough,” Kristina Westerlund said of the girl, who was not hospitalized.
Westerlund also said the girl’s mother “might have the flu,” although Washoe health officials have not confirmed whether the mother has swine flu.
Westerlund is a child care worker at the Fundamentals Preschool, adjacent to the University of Nevada, Reno, campus where the 2-year-old showed signs of illness on Friday. By Sunday, the girl’s temperature had risen to 104 degrees, according to Westerlund, and the family sought medical assistance.
The preschool for 22 children, ages 2 to 6, was disinfected Wednesday and medical authorities have decided not to close it.
The identities of the girl and her mother have not been released.
Dr. Randall Todd, an epidemiologist for the Washoe County School District, said cases of swine flu can appear anywhere for as yet unknown reasons.
“This is a virus that is spread from person to person,” Todd added. “They (the preschool) have done everything they could have done to prevent it.”
Todd said the preschool has been open for 15 years and never has had any licensing problems or health concerns.
One of the preschool’s owners, Lisa Munson said at the news conference that one of her own children is a student there and that the child and another student recently became sick. Both were checked by doctors and found not to have swine flu, Munson said.
The 2-year-old’s case “was quite mild,” Dr. Mary Guinan, the acting state health officer, said earlier Wednesday at a hearing of the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee.
But Guinan advised lawmakers that Nevada probably will see additional cases of swine flu in the coming days.
Top state Health Division officials advised citizens not to be alarmed and told legislators they are prepared to respond.
The state has stockpiled 140,000 treatment courses of Tamiflu and other anti-viral treatments which are on hand in hospitals, pharmacies and other places in Nevada. It expects to receive another 86,000 treatment courses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the near future.
The stockpile should be an ample supply, legislators were told. Nevada has a population of about 2.8 million.
Dr. Mary Anderson, Washoe County health officer, said the prescription medications only treat the flu, so no one should take it as a preventative.
“Let’s not panic,” state Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said during the hearing.
Willden said the CDC confirmed early Wednesday that a flu sample sent by Federal Express confirmed the 2-year-old Reno girl had swine flu.
During the hearing, Willden added the girl’s family has not been known to travel much.
Willden would not disclose the name of the facility attended by the youngster. Legislators were not pleased.
“My daughter is in a day care center (in Reno),” Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, said. “This is something we should get out to our constituents.”
But Willden said it was up to the Washoe County Health District to release such information.
“They need to do the investigation,” he said.
Clark County School District officials will be sending a letter home today and Friday notifying families that they are monitoring the situation and asking people to take health precautions such as frequently washing hands and staying home if ill.
School nurses and staff also are looking for symptoms at school. “We are being hyper-vigilant,” said Diana Taylor, the director of the district’s health services.
Taylor said she is staying in daily contact with the Southern Nevada Health District by “phone, fax and e-mail.”
School officials would consult with the health district if they thought it was necessary to close a school, Taylor said.
“They would have to confirm these are true cases of swine flu,” she added.
Officials could close a school within a day, especially if they observe a “clustering,” or an outbreak of cases, she said.
D’Ann Blatt, director at Lit’l Scholar Academy in Summerlin, said she’s taking extra precautions just in case.
“We really have to do everything we can to keep it out of our environment,” she said. “Because if it gets here, there will be very little we can do about it.”
Blatt said she attended what was supposed to be a routine meeting Wednesday morning at the Southern Nevada Health District. About 100 child care providers showed up for the meeting, ostensibly to talk about childhood immunization.
“Swine flu came up almost immediately,” Blatt said.
The group learned, she said, about the Northern Nevada case. They learned that a toddler in Texas had died.
This concerned Blatt enough that she immediately implemented mandatory hand washing for anyone who enters the facility. Workers and children are included. She said she “encourages” parents to do so, but can’t make them.
She’s also revised the employee handbook requiring anyone exhibiting flulike symptoms to bring a doctor’s note before they will be allowed back to work. They will not be penalized for missing work, however, she said.
“We need to take this seriously,” she said.
In addition, she said the staff janitor is also cleaning surfaces in the facility such as light switches more extensively and frequently than normal.
Brian Labus, senior epidemiologist with the Southern Nevada Health District, said the agency is working with school and day care officials on what should be done if a case is identified here.
“The whole situation is evolving rapidly,” he said, and the advice from the CDC “is changing every day.”
”A course of action,” he said, “will be taken on a case-by-case basis.”
He noted there are always unintended consequences when a school is closed, he said. Do kids treat it as a snow day and hang around with other kids and spread it there?
Someone can be contagious and show no symptoms, he said.
“Whatever we do, we have to make sure it’s reasonable and the best course of action,” Labus said.
The only way people can secure Tamiflu or other anti-viral medications is through a doctor’s prescription. There is no vaccine for the current swine flu, and seasonal flu vaccines are not being used to treat it.
Luana Ritch, chief of planning and response for the state Health Division, said Nevada doctors so far are using their own supplies of anti-viral medications.
There can be charges for these prescriptions, but if state or federal stockpiles are used, only an administrative cost would be charged.
Review-Journal writers Jim Haug, Richard Lake and Paul Harasim and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.