June 10, 2009 in City

Swine flu continues to spread in region

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane health officials believe the H1N1 influenza virus – commonly called swine flu – is infecting people throughout the region.

Five new cases confirmed in the past week, including a Rogers High School student and his father, along with an infant and two prisoners at the Airway Heights Corrections Center, may be just a fraction of actual number of people with the flu strain that grabbed headlines this spring.

The Washington state Department of Health is now focused on people who become hospitalized and those who die from complications of the H1N1 virus.

It’s a practice that state and local health officials agree does not accurately reflect the scope of new flu infections, since most cases are mild and don’t require hospitalization.

Dr. Joel McCullough, health officer for the Spokane Regional Health District, urged people to continue washing their hands, covering coughs and sneezing into shirt sleeves or tissues, and staying home from work or school if ill.

Spread of the flu may ebb this summer, though it will likely return in the fall along with seasonal flu viruses.

The health district will post weekly totals of confirmed cases and continue to issue notices if outbreaks occur in places like summer camps, childcare centers, or institutions.

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