Meeker boy is county’s first swine flu case

MEEKER I Rio Blanco County had its first confirmed case of swine flu, the week after Colorado recorded its first death from the H1N1 virus.
“He was tested Aug. 1, but it wasn’t confirmed until last Wednesday,” said Stacy Hudelson of Meeker, whose son Joe, 12, became the county’s first confirmed case of swine flu. “He was sick for about a day and a half, and then he was good.”
Joe was tested at Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker and results were then sent in to the state.
“They get a positive test, and then they have to send it off for confirmation of what kind of influenza it is,” Hudelson said.
A second H1N1 flu case was confirmed in Meeker at the end of last week.
“We’ve had two (cases),” said Margie Joy, spokeswoman for Pioneers Medical Center. “They both were confirmed last week.”
Laura Cogswell, PMC infection control officer, said, “Both patients are recovering well.”
The best protections against the H1N1 flu, Joy said, “are the everyday practices of covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands, and stay home when you feel sick.”
Joy said she didn’t know when the H1N1 vaccine will be available in Rio Blanco County, “but we do know if you get the traditional season flu vaccine it will protect you from a lot of strains and keep you healthier.”
Hudelson’s son Joe first experienced flu-like symptoms while attending a church camp at Grand Mesa. The camp shut down early after a number of campers and staffers complained of flu-like symptoms.
“Of the 75 campers and staff, there were 13 to 15 that were sick,” said Johnny Arrington, pastor of Meeker’s United Methodist Church, who accompanied four local youth — three from Meeker and one from Rangely — to the week-long United Methodist camp. “We felt it was wise to shut down the camp early. We had a great camp, other than it ended kind of cruddy. Fortunately, it was at the end of the camp.
“We had isolated the sick kids in the lodge, and the rest packed (to go home) early,” added Arrington, who was a director at the camp. “What’s funny is Joe was one of the ones who was feeling good.”
Tim Webber of Rangely, whose son Mitchell is a friend of Joe’s, also attended the camp and shared the same cabin with Joe and six other campers and two counselors.
“He was one of the first ones who got sick,” Arrington said of Mitchell.
Webber said of his son, “He ran a fever. The highest was 104. We took him to the hospital (in Rangely on Aug. 1) and he tested negative. It was a surprise to us, and a relief.”
A 41-year-old woman from El Paso County died July 28, becoming the first confirmed death in Colorado as result of the H1N1 swine flu. Prior to that, there had been 171 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in the state. The first confirmed case was in April.
“It had the potential to be a lot worse,” Arrington said of the situation at the church camp. “But no one was ever hospitalized.”
Asked about other confirmed H1N1 cases among campers, Arrington said, “All I know is I’ve been informed it was eight to 10.”
Arrington experienced flu-like symptoms himself, but tested negative for the H1N1 virus.
“I was down for about a day and a half. I had a little fever. I just felt achy,” Arrington said. “They did put me on Tamiflu, since I had been exposed. But since I tested negative, they didn’t put (his wife) Patty on it and she hasn’t had any issues.”
Hudelson’s son Joe was also prescribed the flu medicine Tamiflu.
“We kept him (isolated) at home and they started him on the medicine Saturday (Aug. 1),” Hudelson said. “He was symptom-free Sunday night. They put him on a five-day, twice-a-day dosage. He quit taking Tamiflu (last) Wednesday. He had no immediate contact outside of the immediate family for those five days.”
Joe could go outside in the yard, but if he was in closed quarters around other people, he had to wear a mask. Hudelson and her other son, Eli, 9, were also prescribed Tamiflu as a precaution.
“They put us on the 10-day, once-a-day dosage for prevention,” Hudelson said.
Hudelson had assured Joe he would be fine.
“He had read about (swine flu),” she said. “I told him it’s OK. It’s still just the flu.”
Joy, spokeswoman for Pioneers Medical Center, said going into flu season, people will need to take proper precautions, but not panic.
“I think the biggest thing we have to do is help people to keep this in perspective, and to understand how to keep themselves healthy, and what to do if they feel sick,” Joy said.
From his own experience, Arrington agreed, adding, “Just be sensible.”