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Washington County has probable H1N1 case, officials say

Washington County Public Health officials announced Tuesday that a probable case of the H1NI influenza virus was identified in a Hugo pre-school.

County public health director Lowell Johnson informed county commissioners of the news during their weekly board meeting May 5 and said the Minnesota Department of Health informed the county of the probable case late Monday. Two other probable cases were identified in Hennepin County on Monday.

The probable case of the H1N1 virus in Washington County, or swine flu, occurred at Hugo Elementary, which is part of the White Bear Lake School District. The school district closed the pre-school program at the school for the day, an MDH press release stated.

Johnson told commissioners that the probable case is being followed up for closer examination and confirmation.

"Since (the incident) crosses county lines, we are also in close contact with our Ramsey County partners in public health and working with state Department of Health in response to this situation," Johnson said.

On Monday the MDH released revised guidelines for health officials to follow regarding the H1N1 influenza virus, which state that the illness in its current has had much more mild affects in cases throughout the country than originally anticipated.

"What we are seeing is that (the H1N1 virus) is behaving very much like a seasonal flu outbreak," Johnson told commissioners. "That's not to imply that a seasonal flu outbreak isn't deadly too, it can affect the young, the elderly and those with weak immune systems."

Johnson said MDH revised guidelines state that clinics and hospitals should also only send possible H1N1 specimen for testing if the patient required hospitalization for influenza.

"Again, I would emphasize that we now know much more about how this influenza behaves and we are responding accordingly to that and we will be taking all the necessary precautions and follow up on this," Johnson said.