H1N1 case confirmed on Vashon

A case of H1N1 flu was confirmed on Vashon Thursday afternoon, after tests showed that a 50-year-old man who was treated at Vashon Health Center last week was carrying the virus, which is sometimes called swine flu.

The man has recovered fully from the illness, and there's no reason to panic, said Dr. Kim Farrell, who treated the patient. She's seen no other "highly suspicious cases" that could be H1N1 on Vashon, she said.

The H1N1 virus, she added, "has been shown to be no more dangerous than influenza that we see during the winter."

The Islander treated for H1N1 was not at high risk for transmitting the virus to many others; even the ill man's family did not contract the virus. He likely contracted the virus off-Island, Farrell said.

The man was displaying "several" of the typical symptoms suspicious for H1N1, she said. Those symptoms include fever, body aches, cough, sore throat and generally "feeling very ill."

Though H1N1 has been the subject of significant media scrutiny, it has not turned out to be the deadly pandemic some initially feared it would be, according to Farrell. Of the 11,168 cases worldwide confirmed by the World Health Organization, 86 have been fatal.

But the people who die of H1N1 are "the same people who die of influenza," Farrell said, "people who already have compromised immune systems or other significant medical issues that make them more susceptible."

In Washington, 494 cases of H1N1 have been confirmed, and one case was fatal.

It's often the complications of H1N1 — pneumonia, for example — that prove fatal to these individuals with medical issues, she said.

Still, Islanders should take precautions to avoid contracting or transmitting H1N1, the same precautions they should take to avoid catching a common cold: Wash hands, cover the mouth when coughing, keep hands away from eyes, nose and mouth and stay home when sick, Farrell said.

School-aged children are most susceptible to H1N1, she said, "because their immune systems aren't as fully developed," but anyone could catch the virus.

"It does make people sick," Farrell said. But they'll greatly lessen their chances of infection, she added, "if people follow good preventative measures."

Visit the King County public health web site or the Center for Disease Control H1N1 site for more information about the H1N1 virus.

The Vashon Island School District has instructions for when to keep a child home from school.

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