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Probable case of H1N1 (swine) flu detected on ship in Alaska waters

Department of Health and Social Services to hold press availability Sunday morning

Press Conference Video - 5/10/09

Contact:    
Ann Potempa, Cell (907) 230-4001, ann.potempa@alaska.gov
Clay Butcher, Cell (907) 351-2778, clay.butcher@alaska.gov

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) this weekend that a crew member onboard the Serenade of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship currently traveling through Alaska waters, is recovering from a probable infection with H1N1 (swine) flu. Testing was performed at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory because the patient became ill while the ship was in the Washington area. The CDC is in the process of validating the laboratory’s results. The crew member, whose illness began on May 2, is taking antiviral medication and has been in isolation since the ship left Washington.  She will remain isolated throughout the duration of the ship’s voyage in Alaska waters.

“The Serenade of the Seas medical staff members have done an excellent job in caring for the patient, following strict isolation procedures in order to prevent spread to others onboard the ship, and notifying state and federal health officials of the patient’s illness,” said Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer.

Ship medical staff members routinely evaluate every passenger and crewmember who is identified with influenza-like illness for influenza.  One additional crewmember was diagnosed with influenza that began on April 30, when the ship was in California; he was placed in isolation, treated with antiviral medications, and recovered uneventfully. AnH1N1 (swine) flu confirmatory test was not performed on this patient. No other cases of influenza have been diagnosed onboard the ship this month.

“Appropriate precautions were taken in accordance with current recommendations for controlling the spread of influenza. This is very reassuring news for Alaskans who might come in contact with passengers and crew members who disembarked from the ship while it was in port,” Dr. Butler said.

WHAT:          Press availability about probable case of H1N1 (swine) flu on a cruise ship

WHEN:          Sunday, May 10, 11 a.m.

WHERE:       Department of Health and Social Services Emergency Operations Center
                      DHSS Public Health Laboratory in Anchorage
4500 Boniface Parkway ( map to lab )

WHO:             Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer
                       Dr. Bernd Jilly, DHSS Chief of the Section of Laboratories

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