Swine Flu Arizona: Two More Schools Closed; Four Cases Confirmed, None Serious

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Two more Valley schools will close for seven days after students were found to have swine flu, but health officials say all four known Arizona swine flu cases have been mild.

(Note: This article was updated at 3:40 p.m.)

The two schools are Tarwater Elementary and Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary schools, both in Chandler.

Health facilities have seen the biggest impact from the virus as fearful people swamp emergency rooms and doctors' offices.

"They're really getting slammed right now," said Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "Don't go clogging the health care system if it's not necessary."


England and other officials continued to downplay the severity of the virus, pointing out that it hasn't been worse than the regular flu. Officials say there's no reason to go to the doctor unless symptoms turn severe. If you contract swine flu, you'll get over it "just like you would any case of the flu," says England.

Most of the concerned people flocking to health care facilities show minimal symptoms and are sent home without even being tested for the flu, says Dr. Jeffery Schultz of John C. Lincoln Hospital. But in the meantime, regular emergency room patients are still coming in. The masses of people worried they have swine flu could affect the level of care of the patients who actually need care, Schultz said.

England said officials will release the name of the school that is closing later this afternoon, once all the parents have been notified. Yesterday, some parents of Moon Mountain Elementary found out their kids' school was closing on their car radio as they drove to pick up their kids, England said.

"It wasn't a good scene," he said.


Full text of afternoon news release from county health:


PHOENIX (April 30, 2009) - The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) learned today that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 3 additional cases of the Swine Flu in Arizona. Three school aged children, all residing in Maricopa County, has been identified as having contracted Swine Flu and all are recovering.

In response and in accordance with CDC guidelines, Maricopa County Department of Public Health director, Bob England has decided to dismiss students from Tarwater Elementary and Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School, both in the Chandler Unified School District for 7 calendar days. There is no known relationship between these students.

One of the cases had been home during the infectious period and could not have infected anyone in his/her school.

"Swine Flu is here in Arizona and we will continue to see cases," said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa Department of Public Health. "Again, this flu continues to behave like our regular influenza season. The ONLY reason I continue to take such aggressive measures is to limit its spread and in accordance state and federal guidance."

State and county officials are asking residents to use common sense when visiting the emergency rooms, urgent cares and community health centers.

"We are all in this together and our healthcare system needs to be available to take care of those who are most sick in our community whether it be from the flu or from a heart attack," said England.

He added, "If you are feeling sick and under normal circumstances, you would not have gone to the emergency room, than you should not go now. We are asking our clinicians here in Maricopa County not to give antivirals to people that that they believe do not need it.

That being said, if you are experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain or serious symptoms than by all means, got the emergency room."

The Swine Flu virus is a new type of virus never seen in people until it was discovered last week. It is a combination of swine, avian, and human influenza and responds well when treated with anti-virals. The Swine Influenza has the same symptoms as regular or seasonal influenza: sudden onset of high fever, runny nose, body aches and exhaustion. Some people with the Swine Flu have nausea and diarrhea.

"Today's cases do not change our public health message," said Will Humble, acting director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. "Cough or sneeze into you sleeve, wash your hands frequently and above all, stay home when you are sick."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.