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Court employees warned of possible flu case; 47 statewide

Updated Thursday, May 21, 2009 | 5:31 p.m.

One of Clark County's suspected flu cases is a Las Vegas Municipal Court employee, according to a court memo.

The employee works at the Regional Justice Center and was identified as "possibly" becoming ill from the H1N1 flu virus, a novel strain of influenza that has symptoms similar to seasonal flu strains.

The employee recovered from the illness and has been cleared by physicians to return to work, the memo said.

The Clark County Courts administration said signs have been posted in the Regional Justice Center advising people to cover their mouths when coughing and to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently.

Preventative measures have also been placed on the courts' Intranet site.

Northern Nevada health officials are reporting 10 new cases of the 2009 Type A H1N1 influenza, bringing the total cases statewide to 48.

Clark County, including Las Vegas, has the most confirmed cases at 25.

Washoe County, which includes Reno and Sparks, has a total of 20 since the first case was confirmed April 29, Carson City has two and Lyon County has one, said Martha Framsted, spokeswoman for the Nevada State Health Division.

A total of 13 cases in Washoe are students at Mendive Middle School in Sparks, said Judy Davis, spokeswoman for the Washoe County Health District. One of the students has been hospitalized, but was released today.

The newest case in Washoe County is an adult who has been hospitalized, Davis said. One child in Northern Nevada is younger than school age.

Health and school officials have closed Mendive Middle School in Sparks, the first school in the state to close due to the novel strain of flu.

The middle school will remain closed today through Monday to prevent the spread of the contagious virus among students, Davis said. Young people with the flu are likely to spread it a day or two before they display symptoms such as a fever, sore throat and cough, health officials said.

At Mendive, more than 100 absences have been reported each day this week with 74 students reporting flu-like symptoms, Davis said.

By Tuesday if any Mendive Middle School students are displaying such symptoms, school and health officials urged parents to keep them home for seven days and an extra day after they are free of symptoms.

A student at Billinghurst Middle School also tested positive for the flu virus, but has not attended classes in a week, Davis said. The school is not closing because absences have not increased, she said.

Federal health officials have said that the flu is unpredictable and may weaken or strengthen over the summer months before the start of the fall flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report today that says that older people over the age of 60 years may have some protection or resistance to the new flu strain, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, deputy director for CDC's Science and Public Health Program.

While current flu vaccines can protect against normal seasonal flu strains that kill 36,000 a year and hospitalize another 200,000 annually in the United States, the vaccine does not protect against the new strain, Schuchat said.

Older people may have been exposed to the first H1N1 strain appearing in 1918, health officials said. That strain then disappeared, replaced by H2N2 in 1957.

The new strain is a novel type of flu combining bits of bird, pig and human flu viruses.

The CDC is on track to have strains of possible seed viruses ready by early summer to develop a vaccine against the new flu.

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