As reported by Fox 61 News, April 30, 2009.

In Connecticut, a 3rd Probable Case of Swine Flu

By Arielle Levin Becker, David Owens and Mark Spencer

Wednesday brought a warning from federal officials that new cases of swine flu could be more severe than the dozens already spread across the country. Schools in East Haddam and Wethersfield were closed and scrubbed as a precaution, and President Barack Obama urged parents to make plans in case their children's schools must be temporarily shut down.

In Connecticut, two more possible cases of swine flu were identified, in children in Granby and Middlefield. Additional school closings were announced in Waterbury, Vernon and Granby. And in Texas, a toddler from Mexico City died, the first swine flu death in the U.S.

So just how frightened should we be?

While experts are still trying to get a handle on the nature of the virus turning up around the world, physicians in Connecticut recommend approaching it largely like any other type of flu.

That means following all the usual flu-prevention measures — frequent hand-washing, covering coughs, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, minimizing close contact and staying home if you feel ill. Powering through it at work could make you sicker — and infect others.

And if you feel symptoms, think of them the way you would with any flu when determining whether to call a doctor or rush to the emergency room.

Most of the U.S. swine flu cases have been relatively mild so far, and doctors and health officials have recommended that people rely on their regular health care providers for flu care unless they are experiencing an emergency, like having trouble breathing. Anti-viral medications, which can be prescribed by a doctor, have been shown to be effective against swine flu when taken within the first 48 hours.

"I think it's reasonable to be concerned, but more about the rapidity of the spread of this infectious disease," said Dr. Richard Garibaldi, hospital epidemiologist at the UConn Health Center and a member of the state Department of Public Health's swine flu advisory committee.

Swine flu has received more attention than a typical seasonal flu in part because the virus is a new strain that humans do not have immunity against and because of how far it has spread. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection has said that as swine flu spreads, more hospitalizations and deaths are expected.

The deaths in Mexico thought to be linked to swine flu also caused concern, in part because many of the victims were between 20 and 40 years old, an age group that does not typically die of flu. Only eight deaths in Mexico have been confirmed as swine flu-related, while about 150 more are suspected to be linked.

In Connecticut, officials continued to monitor the situation Wednesday as a third probable case was identified. A child in Middlefield became ill over the weekend after vacationing in Mexico last week, said Dr. Matthew Huddleston, Middlefield's health director. Huddleston said the child was doing well.

"The child did not go to school, thank goodness," Huddleston said.

Two other probable cases were identified in adults between age 20 and 50 in Southbury and Stratford, state officials announced Tuesday. State testing has determined that the viruses in all three cases are not seasonal flu. Samples from the cases have been sent to the CDC to determine whether they are swine flu but as of Wednesday evening no cases of swine flu had been confirmed in Connecticut.

In Wethersfield, precautionary school closings meant a day off for Marjorie Carson's 4-year-old daughter, Edie.

Carson would have been home anyway with her 18-month-old son, but said she'd spoken with other parents who had to scramble to make plans for their children — which could become a more widespread problem if additional schools across the state decide to shut down.

Carson said the swine flu didn't worry her greatly — she ranked her concern at a four on a scale of one to 10 — but said that could change if there are more cases. If school were held Wednesday, she said, she would have sent her daughter, though she might have been worried if other pupils or employees at her daughter's school had been in Mexico.

But Carson said she wondered whether school would be closed the next day, or the next, and how those decisions would be made.

"It's kind of uncharted territory," she said.

Other people in Wethersfield said they had varying levels of concern about the virus. One woman said she worried, but hadn't changed her routine because she is already careful about hygiene. Several others said they were not particularly concerned. One man said he thought there was too much hype.

Sarah Guglietta, a Wethersfield High School sophomore, described the swine flu as "kind of scary." She said it hadn't changed her daily life much, except for one thing. "I'm washing my hands more," she said.

Elsewhere in the state, additional school closings were announced.

The Rotella Magnet School in Waterbury will be closed today and Friday for cleaning as a precaution after a student who recently traveled to Mexico fell ill.

Vernon announced Wednesday afternoon that its public schools will be closed today and Friday. School and town officials said a staff member had tested positive for flu and additional tests are being done.

In East Haddam, schools were closed for cleaning Wednesday after two students became ill after a family trip to Mexico.

The schools in Wethersfield were closed and cleaned because a Silas Deane Middle School employee returned from Mexico with flulike symptoms.

"I'm looking to be very proactive and ultraconservative to ensure the continued health and safety of all of our staff and students," Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Kohlhagen said.

Crews were cleaning and sanitizing since Tuesday night at the middle school and all day Wednesday at the district's other schools, Kohlhagen said. That work included disinfecting desk tops, door handles, hallways and floors.

"Everything was wiped down with disinfectants. I have to say they did a stupendous job, our buildings and grounds crews," Kohlhagen said.

Wethersfield and East Haddam schools remain closed today. An ill Milford teen also was being tested for swine flu Wednesday, although city health director Dr. A. Dennis McBride said, "We don't have a high level of suspicion" that the youth has the disease because there is no recent history of travel to Mexico or other affected areas.

McBride said the case is being taken seriously, but that testing positive for influenza on an initial test does not mean a person will have swine flu.

Although the media widely reported the case, McBride urged restraint. "There are going to be tons of these now," he said.