June 16, 2009 — A St. Thomas woman who contracted the H1N1 influenza A virus apparently while traveling off-island has been confirmed as the territory's first case of what has commonly been called swine flu, the Health Department reported Tuesday.
"I want to reassure the public that this confirmed case has no correlation with the reported Influenza A cases on the cruise ship last week, acting Health Commissioner Julia Sheen said in Health Department release Tuesday. "As I noted then, the H1N1 virus could make its way here via any entry port. Thus, we continue to urge residents to guard against spreading influenza through hand washing and to cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing." (See: "Two Ailing Cruise Ship Passengers Test Negative for H1N1 Virus.")
The patient, an adult, was diagnosed after returning to St. Thomas. Health was notified of the swine flu case by a private physician from whom the woman had sought treatment for flu-like symptoms. A private lab confirmed testing results as positive for the H1N1 virus. The patient has been isolated at home and is no longer symptomatic.
This flu is a respiratory disease found regularly in pigs and that can is rarely passed to humans who have been in contact with pigs. Once passed to humans from the animals, it is spread like any other virus from human to human.
The symptoms are similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal flu and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy and lessen the risk of spreading the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control website :
— Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
— Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
— Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
— Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
— Influenza is thought to spread mainly person to person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
— If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. (See: "Health Department Responds to Swine Flu Cases with Information.")
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