Swine flu scare in Park City a false alarm
April 28, 2009
Parkite Taylor Meehan had cold sweats, chills and a terrible cough the day after he returned from a vacation in Mexico last week.
"I crossed the border and about a day later I started getting really sick," Meehan said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I’ve never really had a cough go that deep before. I could feel it at the bottom of my chest."
Meehan’s sister made him get tested in Park City Monday because she thought he had swine flu, which has caused a public health scare as outbreaks of the disease have been confirmed in California, Texas, Ohio, Kansas and New York.
"I had no idea what the swine flu was. But I got back here and a few days later I still had the gnarly cough and nothing was going away," said Meehan, who is 22 years old. "The doctor said I definitely had all the right things leading up to it. I was in Mexico and had just crossed the border."
But a test determined his respiratory illness was not swine flu even as the disease spread this week in Mexico and the United States.
"They had to put a swab up my nose and then they had to wait eight minutes for it to come out. It turned out to be a pretty bad chest cold," Meehan said. "The doctor didn’t think I had (swine flu) because I guess if you have it you’re on your back, almost looking like you’re dying."
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But many people have asked to be tested for swine flu at the clinic, he said.
"They say that lots of people are coming in, but they’re mostly the doomsday paranoid type of people," Meehan said.
Students with high fevers or aching bones, who returned recently from spring-break trips in Mexico, should get checked out as health officials work to keep swine flu away from Summit County.
School officials may not know something is wrong until students complain of sore throats, diarrhea or nausea.
"It is a grave concern, but at this point they are not recommending any school closures," Park City School District Superintendent Ray Timothy said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "We had spring break [April] 10th through the 19th and a lot of people traveled to Southern California and into Mexico."
U.S. health officials have declared a public health emergency but no swine flu cases were confirmed in Utah Tuesday.
"If we have a confirmed case, it might be wise to close that school, monitor those kids for seven days and see if any more of them come down with it, rather than take a chance at having it run through the school," Summit County emergency coordinator Butch Swenson said. "Until we have a confirmed case in Summit County, we kind of just wait."
Absenteeism has not increased this week at schools in Park City, Timothy said.
"But if there is one reported case, we need to strongly consider closing school. Because it only takes one case, and it starts to spread," he said.
Government officials are working with area health-care providers to ensure they are properly testing for swine flu in Summit County, said Katie Mullaly, a spokeswoman for the Summit County Health Department.
"We’ve had a number of calls and we tell everyone who calls that if they are feeling sick, to go to their doctor immediately and get tested," Mullaly said. "Saturday we started hearing about it, but Sunday morning was when everybody started to coordinate."
The Utah Department of Health is ordering one-quarter of the state’s share of antiviral medications to treat a potential outbreak of swine flu in the state, according to Tom Hudachko, a spokesman for the department.
"Even though we don’t have any cases in Utah, this is still a situation where we need to be on high alert, but not to panic," Utah Department of Health Executive Director David Sundwall said in a prepared statement.