With Colorado Cases Confirmed, Western Slope Health, School Officials On High Alert

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

The official swine flu count in the U.S. has grown to more than 109 -- Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that two people on the Front Range are among them. Health officials in Mesa and Montrose Counties have activated their emergency operations centers and say they're stepping up efforts to prepare for an outbreak on the Western Slope.

It's the news everyone was expecting but not wanting to hear.

"As we expected, the virus is in Colorado," said Ned Calonge, Chief Medical Officer for the CDPHE.

Thursday morning, the CDHPE announced a woman from Arapahoe County who recently returned from Mexico and a man who works as a baggage handler at Denver International Airport were diagnosed with, but recovering, from the H1N1 "Swine" Flu.

"I hope with the virus here now, people will take that to heart and take it seriously," said Calonge.

Mesa County health officials say they certainly are.

"This report of cases in Colorado does heighten our alert level, to be aware of the possibility that we could be seeing some in Mesa County," said Dr. Michael Aduddell, Director of the Mesa County Health Department.

The Mesa County Health Department says it sent one suspect sample to the state for testing, but found out Thursday it fortunately came back negative.

Now more than ever, they're asking residents to be vigilant, wash their hands, cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing, and to stay home if they develop any kind of symptoms.

"Don't panic, but people should be aware of what is going on," said Dr. Aduddell.

School District 51 says that is just what it is trying to do.

"At this point, it's really just awareness, providing information to our parents," said Jeff Kirtland, spokesperson for School District 51.

Thursday, the district sent letters home with students, explaining their plan of action should any student contract the virus.

"At this time, there is not a confirmed case so we are not planning to close any schools," said Kirtland.

The letter states that should the swine flu hit, the district would begin immediate dismissal and closure of affected schools. But in the meantime, they ask parents to continue sending their kids to school.

And health officials ask everyone to stay on top of the most up-to-date information.

"There's a lot of questions we don't have the answers for yet," said Dr. Aduddell. "This situation is evolving and changing every day."

Officials say the federal government is sending 167,000 courses of Tamiflu -- a drug doctors say seems to be effective against the new strain -- from the national stockpile to Colorado.

The Mesa and Montrose County Health Departments say they are still waiting to find out how much of that will be delivered to them.

If you have any questions about the H1N1 Swine Flu, they encourage you to call the special Colorado Helpline at 1-877-462-2911.

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