The Idaho State Laboratory confirmed H1N1 (swine) influenza Thursday in four of seven people who recently visited Bonners Ferry with an out-of-state church group. Three of the tests were negative.
The group left the area Tuesday to return home after seeing a Bonners Ferry doctor for care over the weekend. Prudent responses to the illness by the group, doctor and the hotel in Ponderay at which the group stayed helped prevent or slow the virus' spread among the local population.
"People showed compassion and responsibility and the community came together in the right way after the illnesses were confirmed," said Jeanne Bock, Panhandle Health District director. "We don't know yet if the virus spread, but we know their responsible reaction kept any spread to a minimum.''
The state lab confirmed the group's first case of H1N1 on Thursday, June 4. Dr. Troy Geyman in Bonners Ferry voluntarily saw dozens of people in the group over the weekend that had been exposed or had symptoms.
He tested several dozen people for the flu virus and sent seven tests to the state lab to confirm the H1N1 virus. He prescribed appropriate antiviral medication for those who needed it.
Meanwhile, group leaders worked with their hotel to isolate sick people in a separate area of the hotel. Meals were cooked in the hotel parking lot. A select few people ferried food and supplies to their isolated friends. The sick wore masks outside of their rooms. The hotel shifted daily cleaning procedures into a higher gear.
"I'd like to think if my own kids were in a situation like this, they'd be treated with the same respect and compassion," said Randi Lustig, who leads PHD's H1N1 investigations. "It was really well done all the way around."
Before the group was aware anyone was sick, it was active in Bonner and Boundary counties, particularly in Bonners Ferry. PHD advises people to watch for H1N1 symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
People considered at risk for possible complications with H1N1 are older than age 65 and younger than age 5; pregnant; have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease; or have a compromised immune system. People at risk should call a doctor as soon as they're aware of symptoms.
People with symptoms who are not considered at risk should isolate themselves for seven days or until the symptoms are gone for a full day, whichever is longer. People with symptoms that worsen or don't improve should call a doctor, who will decide if a test is appropriate.
The H1N1 virus spreads through droplets in the air. To help prevent infection, people should stay three to six feet away from anyone who is sick, wash hands well and often and keep their hands away from their face.
H1N1 is a new virus to which people have little to no immunity.
Information:contact Cynthia Taggart, Public Information Officer, 208-415-5108, 208-818-7288 (cell)