Flu likely to come to Oregon, health officials say

Jackson County public health officials said today that closing schools would be possibility if swine flu arrives here, and state health officers said the rapid movement of the virus across the United States and around the world increases the likelihood that cases will be found in Oregon.

"We're expecting there's going to be a confirmed case," Dr. Gary Oxman told reporters during a press conference in Portland. Oxman is the regional public health officer for Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas County.

Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County's medical officer, said health officials could recommend closure of a school if a child had a confirmed case of swine flu. Shames said recommendations about when to close schools would likely come down from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to state health officials and from there to county health officers, who would consult with school districts. He said health officials have done training exercises on this kind of situation, so they have established good communications.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert to 5, just one level below a full pandemic. According to the WHO Web site, a phase 5 declaration is "a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short."

Samples collected from 14 Oregonians are going to be tested to see if they have been ill with swine flu, state Director of Public Health Dr. Mel Kohn said. Results will not be available for several days.

— Bill Kettler

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