Two swine flu cases won't be last in county, official says

Health officials at opposite ends of the state on Tuesday confirmed new cases of swine flu, including the first two in Clark County.

The Southern Nevada Health District confirmed new cases in an 11-year-old boy who has recovered and a 39-year-old woman who had been hospitalized for more than a week with a respiratory infection.

Citing patient privacy, health officials would not identify the boy's school or the hospital where the woman was being treated. But late Tuesday, a school district official confirmed that the boy attends Findlay Middle School in the northern part of the valley at 333 W. Tropical Parkway, near North Fifth Street and Centennial Parkway.

Also, Nellis Air Force Base officials said that the boy, a dependent of a military family, is not contagious.

"Further monitoring is no longer necessary," a base news release said, noting his recovery. "Additionally, to ensure the case was contained, medical officials tested family members ... with negative results for the virus."

In Washoe County, health officials said two relatives of a 2-year-old girl who had swine flu last week also were infected. All three were recovering at home.

The new confirmed cases bring the state's total to five, with seven more probable cases pending confirmation tests at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Health officials expect the pending cases will be confirmed as swine flu, also known as H1N1 flu, and more county residents probably will be infected.

"Swine flu is circulating in our community," said Brian Labus, the health district's chief epidemiologist. "These are not the last cases we'll find."

Health officials said they didn't know how the two local patients contracted the virus. They had no contact with sick people or traveled out of the country in the week before they fell ill, Labus said. Neither did the people they had been in contact with, he said.

The woman had been hospitalized since April 24 with a serious respiratory infection, but her condition was improving, said Dr. John Middaugh, the health district's community health director.

The boy suffered a mild bout of the flu that lasted about 10 days, said Dr. Lawrence Sands, the district's chief health officer.

Clark County School District Superintendant Walt Rulffes said school officials were monitoring student absences and illnesses for signs of a spreading outbreak but have found nothing unusual.

The district released a letter explaining the situation on Tuesday, the same day federal health officials changed their advice for closing schools nationwide.

The CDC previously had recommended schools close for two weeks if a student contracted swine flu, and more than 700 schools across the country closed in recent weeks for flu-related reasons.

CDC officials said the swine flu had been milder than expected, and school closures left many parents scrambling to find child care alternatives.

Local health officials expected to see more swine flu cases and possibly deaths, but residents shouldn't panic, health officials said.

"It is not surprising and not cause for alarm," Sands said.

"There is no evidence at this time it is causing more illness or more severe illness than the seasonal flu strain," he added.

The swine flu virus is similar to the typical flu viruses that kill an estimated 36,000 Americans and send 200,000 others to the hospital each year, he said.

In Clark County, about 230 people die each year from seasonal flu, he said.

Although some patients might experience serious illness that requires hospitalization, others might be sick a couple of days and return to normal without any medical treatment, he said.

People can help prevent infection by washing their hands frequently, covering their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing, and staying home when they feel flulike symptoms.

Review-Journal staff writers Ed Vogel and Jim Haug and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal. com or 702-383-0281.