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Swine flu now in Manatee, Sarasota

Three confirmed cases of swine flu have been reported in Manatee and Sarasota counties, local health officials said Friday

A 2-year-old girl is Manatee County’s first confirmed case, according to Dr. Gladys Branic, director of the Manatee County Health Department. The child is being treated at home and responding to treatment, said Branic, who described the case as mild. The child did not attend day care or any school.

The young girl likely acquired swine flu in Florida, said John Burns, health department spokesman. She had not been on any recent trips, had not been to Mexico and had no contact with sick individuals, Burns said.

Sarasota health officials report two boys, ages 2 and 10, were the county’s first confirmed cases. Both children have been under the care of a physician. Neither child was hospitalized. The older child is now back at Tuttle Elementary School in Sarasota.

There are no plans for any school closures, the Sarasota Health Department said.

Local health officials are monitoring for any additional cases of influenza-like illness in both counties. As of late afternoon Friday, Branic said Manatee had no probably cases pending confirmation but she urged the public to follow preventative measures.

“Now more than ever it is important to be vigilant about washing your hands. We expected to get a case. It was just a question of when,” she said.

Scott Pritchard, county epidemiologist, urged residents do their part to reduce the spread of infection. “Everyone is encouraged to get prepared at home, find out about plans at your job, and take steps to protect yourself, your family and the community,” Pritchard said. “Use the same judgment you would use during a typical flu season.”

The Manatee test was confirmed at a state lab in Tampa. Branic predicted that the number of probable and confirmed cases will increase more quickly now that all four Department of Health laboratories have received testing supplies from the CDC and can test samples to confirm H1N1, also known as swine flu.

The test kits are being shipped internationally as well. This will allow other countries to test for the new virus. This increase in testing capacity is likely to result in an increase in the number of reported confirmed cases in this country, which should provide a more accurate picture of the spread of the disease, CDC officials said.

As of 11 a.m. Friday, the CDC reported 1,639 confirmed cases in 43 states. There have been two deaths from swine flu. The CDC expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths will occur during the coming days and weeks.

As of 10:30 a.m. Friday, Florida had 23 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in the following counties: one in Alachua, Clay, Indian River, Okeechobee, Orange, Seminole, and Pinellas; two in Dade, three in Lee, five in Broward, and six in Hillsborough. That count does not include the confirmed cases in Manatee and Sarasota announced Friday afternoon.

Local and state health officials continue to take aggressive action to respond to the expanding outbreak, based on CDC guidance, Branic said. CDC recommends the primary means to reduce spread of influenza in schools focus on early identification of ill students and staff, staying home when sick, and good cough etiquette and frequent hand washing. Decisions about school closure should be at the discretion of local authorities based on local considerations.

So far, 24 countries have officially reported 2384 cases of the H1N1 flu, according to the World Health Organization.

A toll free information line has been established to address an increasing number of calls from the public. The number is (800) 342-3557, and it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

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