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Swine flu cases at Fort Leonard Wood now more than St. Louis, Kansas City
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (July 24, 2009) — Swine flu struck Fort Leonard Wood hard this month, with more confirmed cases on the military installation than in either Kansas City or metro St. Louis.

State officials are reporting that there are only 80 cases of H1N1 influenza — the proper medical name for what’s been termed ‘swine flu’ — in the entire state of Missouri; that’s up from 70 reported statewide one week ago July 17. The report of 80 cases issued Thursday by state officials is slightly higher than the 76 cases being reported for Missouri by federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control.

Both the July 17 and the July 23 reports include one case in Pulaski County reported last month at Fort Leonard Wood. However, that apparently doesn’t include a total of 21 cases of the H1N1 influenza on the post that have now been confirmed by military doctors following testing in Texas.

That number now accounts for a fifth of the total H1N1 cases in Missouri, and is higher than the 13 cases in Kansas City, five cases in the city of St. Louis, and 16 cases in St. Louis County. Greene County, which includes Springfield, has only two H1N1 cases so far.

The Fort Leonard Wood numbers have increased considerably from initial reports. Responding to a media inquiry on Thursday, public affairs personnel reported that 16 cases had been confirmed as of yesterday. By Friday afternoon, Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Mike Alley said the count had increased to 21.

“Ordinary flu is a serious illness and we take all flu seriously,” Alley said. “But this is a different strain of flu —different, but not necessarily more potent.”

The first H1N1 case involved a Fort Leonard Wood soldier who reported to the post hospital’s sick call on June 16, just three days after arriving at Fort Leonard Wood, and was subsequently diagnosed with the H1N1 influenza strain. Since the unidentified soldier with H1N1 influenza arrived on post on June 13, it’s likely he contracted the illness elsewhere but began showing symptoms after arriving at Fort Leonard Wood.

Doctors at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital performed a one-hour “rapid-flu test” which determined that he was suffering from Influenza Type A, which is a “broad category of flu-like viruses,” according to a post press release. Subsequent tests conducted at the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine verified the H1N1 strain in a more complex testing procedure that takes about three days to complete.

It’s not as clear that subsequent cases at Fort Leonard Wood originated elsewhere. According to a Fort Leonard Wood statement issued Friday afternoon, most but not all of the 21 people infected by H1N1 are military personnel. Some are people who arrived at Fort Leonard Wood for military training, but others are permanent party personnel and some are family members of military personnel.

At least one case involves a child of a servicemember. That would be consistent with the general pattern of H1N1 influenza; unlike many strains of flu that primarily affect older people, H1N1 tends to strike younger patients.

All Fort Leonard Wood H1N1 patients have been treated and are expected to recover fully, post officials said.

The H1N1 strain was declared a pandemic by officials at the World Health Organization in June due to its widespread reach. First seen in Mexico in March and first detected in the United States in April, it’s a new strain of flu that in some cases has killed its victims and which health officials initially feared would prove resistant to existing treatments.

Even though the new strain of flu has become widespread, it doesn’t appear to have the level of fatal complications that researchers originally feared could be present.

Missouri’s 80 confirmed and probable cases of H1N1 flu and one death give the state one of the lowest infection rates in the country compared to many other states. Missouri state health officials report that as of Thursday, there have been no more civilian H1N1 cases in Pulaski County. In adjacent areas near Fort Leonard Wood, Camden, Miller, Laclede, Phelps and Texas counties have had no H1N1 cases since the disease was first identified; Maries County has had only one case. Nationwide, as of Friday there have been 40,617 cases of H1N1 flu resulting in 302 deaths. That’s by far the largest number of cases confirmed worldwide.

In a prepared statement, Fort Leonard Wood officials said they “continue to be proactive in treating and testing patients with flu-like symptoms” and “are also taking appropriate steps to enforce preventive health measures such as proper hand washing, not sharing eating or drinking utensils, proper cough etiquette and personal hygiene measures to reduce transmission of various respiratory diseases.”

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