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Utah H1N1 virus cases nearly double since last week

Flu affects summer camps, church as it becomes more widespread in state

Swine-flu cases in Utah have nearly doubled since last week and health department officials expect the numbers will continue to increase.

On June 1, Utah health officials reported 369 confirmed cases — and 489 total by the end of last week. On Monday, that number was 713.

Summer camp officials and other community leaders are taking precautions to avoid creating distribution grounds for infectious diseases such as H1N1, but Salt Lake Valley Health Department director Gary Edwards said the virus is already widespread in the community.

"I imagine the numbers are smaller than what we really have," Edwards said. "We've scaled back to only testing hospitalized cases. We know that of individuals testing positive for type A influenza, 95 percent of them have the H1N1 virus, and we're not surprised."

The flu has already jumped from public schools to summer camps and other outdoor recreation activities.

A Boy Scout camp in Utah County closed its doors for a week after a teenage staff member became ill and test results came back positive for H1N1.

Camp Maple Dell was scheduled to open Monday and will now take a weeklong quarantine period to monitor whether other staff members become sick.

"There is concern just as there would be with schools," Edwards said. "You're getting a large number of people in the same area. If individuals are ill, they need to be excluded."

Other camps also are taking precautions.

"Some of our permanent staff are there cleaning to make sure everything is disinfected," said Steve Royster, chief executive officer of Utah National Parks Council. "The health department recommends people stay no closer than six feet, and we'll try to follow that as best we can."

A few counselors in summer workshops and camps for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Especially for Youth program went home after reporting flu-like symptoms, said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins. However, she said cautionary measures are typical of the program and not a response to the outbreak of H1N1.

One LDS ward in Centerville canceled all its Sunday meetings and activities for the rest of the week after ward members were diagnosed with H1N1.

When initial cases were confirmed in Utah, multiple schools closed out of concern that children mingling and sharing germs would spread the disease, which is defying the tendency of the common flu virus to be seasonal.

"Usually the flu runs its course by late spring, but we're not seeing that. Every week we're seeing more confirmed cases," said Tom Hudachko, spokesman for the Utah Department of Health. "We would not expect to see this much active transmission of flu. It's one of the questions we're asking, and as a new virus, its behavior is something we're still trying to wrap our arms around."

Last week, the health department reported a second death in Utah from H1N1, which affects pregnant women, children under the age of 5 and people with a pre-existing chronic condition more than most.

"It's even more important to not infect them," said Hudachko. "Those in a high-risk category should be treated with anti-viral medications before lab results come back."

Edwards said the health department is continuing to encourage children to cover their cough with a tissue or their sleeve, and warning parents to monitor sickness.

"It's not going to prevent the spread, but it will help protect some individuals," Edwards said.


Utah H1N1 virus cases

May 18: 109

June 1: 369

June 8: 713

Source: Utah Department of HealthHeady