First swine flu case confirmed in county

Whatever you call it — swine flu, H1N1 virus, or novel influenza A (H1N1) — the illness finally has been confirmed in Southern Oregon.

A Jackson County resident, who previously had been hospitalized, has tested positive for the virus, public health officials announced Friday.

The person is recovering and no longer hospitalized, Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County's medical officer, said in a media statement. He said the person lives in a small enough town that it would not be appropriate to disclose even the most basic information without jeopardizing the person's privacy.

Shames said sporadic cases of the new influenza virus are likely to occur throughout the summer, and the county health department will continue its disease surveillance and public education efforts.

"This was not a surprise," he said, noting there were 17 new cases of the H1N1 virus in Oregon during the past week, and some people are still falling ill with ordinary seasonal influenza. Seasonal influenza typically tapers off during warm weather and returns again in the late fall and early winter.

As the virus continues to spread, public health officials have struggled with what to call it. Pork producers rebelled against the "swine" appellation, fearing that would cause people to shun pork products. It was called the H1N1 virus for several weeks, but the Federal Centers for Disease Control now calls it "novel influenza A (H1N1)" to reflect the fact that it has never been seen before.

The virus' novelty is why scientists are so concerned about it. Human immune systems have never been exposed to the virus, so have not developed an immune response to fight it.

While most people who have come down with the H1N1 virus have experienced symptoms similar to ordinary seasonal influenza, it could mutate into a much more serious health problem.

As of Friday, there had been 120 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus in Oregon in 11 counties, not counting the Jackson County case. According to data compiled by the Oregon Department of Human Services, seven Oregonians have been hospitalized with the virus. Thirty five of those who have fallen ill are children, 31 are teens and 54 are adults. Sixty-three are males and 57 are females. Cases have been confirmed in people as old as 78, and the median age is 16. (That means 60 cases were younger than 16; and 60 were older than 16.

No one has died on the virus in Oregon, but there have been 10 deaths in the United States as of Friday, and 6,552 cases confirmed in 48 states.

Texas has recorded the most cases (900), followed by Illinois (877), Wisconsin (766), California (553), Arizona (520), and Washington (494).

The number of deaths from swine flu is not unusual: The CDC estimates about 36,000 people in the U.S. died of flu-related causes each year, on average, in the 1990s.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or

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