Local news

Wash. cases may include West Side pediatrician

SEATTLE — A pediatrician who is one of six people suspected of having swine flu in Washington state saw 22 patients and their parents earlier this week before falling ill, officials at The Everett Clinic said Thursday.

In Seattle, a K-8 school was closed for a week Thursday after one of its pupils was identified as among the six probable cases.

The state Health Department cautioned that more probable cases of flu might be found in Washington as additional tests are conducted.

Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, a medical director at the clinic based in Everett, 25 miles north of here, said the 37-year-old doctor from Seattle came to work Monday at the clinic’s Mill Creek branch, midway between the two cities, with symptoms she thought were due to seasonal allergies.

Toward the end of the day, she fell ill, went to a local emergency room and later tested positive for influenza presumed to be swine flu, Tu said. The doctor’s husband and two children also have come down with flu-like illness, but are doing well on antiviral treatment.

“There’s obviously a tremendous amount of anxiety and concern right now,” Tu said. “We are in the midst of contacting all those 22 families, and that is our utmost priority, is taking care of our patients.”

Tu said the doctor and her family did not recently travel to Mexico, where the flu outbreak began. She also did not see patients the day before she fell ill, when she may have been infectious, he said.

Yolanda Larios, 28, went at the Mill Creek clinic Thursday after clinic officials confirmed that the physician had treated her 7-month old son the previous Thursday.

“I was crying when they told me he was treated by that doctor,” said Larios, of Mill Creek, wearing a blue mask and waiting outside for her kids to be tested.

Larios said she didn’t have symptoms, but both her baby and 8-year-old son had fevers. Her baby, whom she brought into the clinic last week because of an ear infection, is also having respiratory problems, she said.

Seattle Public Schools and Public Health-Seattle & King County said Madrona K-8 in the city’s Mount Baker neighborhood would be closed through Wednesday.

“We thought this was an important precaution,” Dr. Jeff Duchin of the health agency told a Thursday morning news conference outside the school.

An 11-year-old student at the K-8 school had a cough and fever Monday and his mother kept him home, school officials said. He was later hospitalized and is recovering.

Duchin said no other cases had been found at Madrona and none of the six probable case in the state are connected.

Joan Rothrock, who volunteers once a week in a Madrona fourth-grade class, arrived at the school Thursday morning to find the doors closed and the school empty. “I think it’s prudent. Better to be safe,” she said.

Jon Hughes, vice president of Madrona K-8’s PTSA, said his fifth-grade daughter has been in contact with the boy but he wasn’t too worried.

“They all have lunch together and recess together, but she hasn’t shown any symptoms,” said Hughes, whose three kids attend the school. “As a parent, I was comfortable sending my kids back to school.”

School district spokesman David Tucker said officials had planned to allow the school to remain open, but health investigators determined the infected boy may have been ill last Friday at the school.

State Health Department spokesman Tim Church said Thursday that it and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were continuing to test Washington samples for swine flu. The state is waiting for confirmation on the six suspected cases from the CDC. About 70 samples have been sent so far to the state testing lab in Shoreline, he said.

Elsewhere in the region, health officials in Oregon reported the state’s first probable case of swine flu Thursday in Multnomah County. Officials in Idaho have not confirmed any cases of swine flu but have alerted medical care providers to continue watching for flu-like illnesses. The state has tested 26 samples from people suspected of having the illness and all were negative. Another 12 samples are under investigation.

No confirmed cases have been reported in Alaska.

In Washington, the three King County cases include the Seattle boy, the Seattle physician and a 27-year-old Seattle man. The two cases in Snohomish County, just north of King, are a 6-year-old boy and a 34-year-old woman. A sixth case, in Spokane County in Eastern Washington, involves a man in his 40s who recently traveled to California.

Gov. Chris Gregoire urged calm Thursday, saying the health system is responding well and the public should not be alarmed.

“At this point, we would say carry your lives out like you do every single day,” Gregoire said. “But do what you do in any flu season: take precautionary steps, and now, if you’re feeling ill, be sure you see your health care provider.”

The state expects to get about 230,000 additional courses of antiviral drugs from the federal government no later than May 3, she said.

In the U.S., the outbreak has hit 16 states with one confirmed death, a Mexican toddler who visited Texas with his family.

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