State waiting for flu results

An unidentified person with ties to Rocori Middle School in Cold Spring fell ill with a strain of influenza that doesn’t match seasonal flu.

Labour dispute

Stephen Maturen

Labour dispute

As Minnesota waits to receive results confirming its first âÄúprobableâÄù case of swine influenza, a novel strain of the virus commonly referred to as “swine flu,” The World Health Organization officially raised the influenza pandemic alert from phase four to phase five Wednesday, which indicates âÄúthat a pandemic is imminent.âÄù An unidentified person with ties to Rocori Middle School in Cold Spring, Minn., fell ill with a strain of influenza that doesnâÄôt match seasonal flu, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said at a press conference Wednesday morning. Pawlenty spoke alongside Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan and State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield . The sample was flown to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to be matched against the swine flu strain âÄî which authorities are now referring to as 2009 H1N1 influenza. As of Daily press time, the results had not been reported. The number of confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in the United States rose to 91, which included the first reported death in the U.S., a Mexican toddler visiting family in Texas . Laboratories in seven additional countries have confirmed cases of the disease. In a press briefing, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and acting-director of the CDC Dr. Richard E. Besser stressed that conclusions about the severity of the pandemic or patterns of the disease shouldnâÄôt be drawn from individual cases, such as the death in Texas. âÄúAs we learn more about severity and transmission, weâÄôll continue to update our treatment guidelines,âÄù Besser said. Officials stressed additional resources had been put into efforts along the U.S. and Mexican border, but the borders would not be sealed. âÄúWe know from many, many years of experience in terms of controlling infectious diseases âĦ intensive efforts at the border are not an effective mechanism in preventing introduction of an infectious disease,âÄù Besser said. Because influenza is highly unpredictable and changes quickly, organizations with pandemic influenza plans in place were urged to âÄúlook at the planning theyâÄôve undertaken and move forward.âÄù

Waiting in Cold Spring

In Cold Spring, St. Boniface School principal Sister Sharon Waldoch fielded media calls from her office. Her school shares facilities with Rocori Middle School. Both schools closed Wednesday as a precaution until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determine whether the flu strain found in the Cold Spring resident matches the 2009 H1N1 strain. âÄúWe decided to err on the side of caution and make sure our kids and staff are safe, and not have school,âÄù said Waldoch, who hadnâÄôt gotten much sleep since receiving a 1 a.m. phone call alerting her to the possible case of the virus in her community. Media members and Minnesota Department of Health officials stopped in WaldochâÄôs office throughout the day. She said sheâÄôll take direction from the Department of Health when she âÄî and the rest of Cold Spring âÄî find out whether the case is confirmed 2009 H1N1 virus. âÄúItâÄôs not a pleasant situation to be in,âÄù she said, adding that a confirmed case could mean a seven-day shutdown of the school. For now, itâÄôs a waiting game. âÄúIt all depends on what happens next,âÄù Waldoch said. âÄúItâÄôs just one of those where you wait and see.âÄù With the descent of media and state workers on the town, Cold Spring Bakery had a busy morning, employee Lorraine Moeller said. âÄúYou never think itâÄôll happen here in a smaller community,âÄù she said. Cold SpringâÄôs population is fewer than 3,000 people. The town stayed fairly calm Wednesday as it awaited the CDC test results. Moeller said if the results come back positive, there might be a different, possibly more panicked, atmosphere. âÄúIâÄôve seen it all,âÄù Moeller, a 43-year Cold Spring resident said. âÄúJust hopefully not swine flu.âÄù âÄî Emma L. Carew and Karlee Weinmann are senior staff reporters