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Swine flu cases confirmed at Word of Life Youth Camp in Pasco

A camper and staff member at the Word of Life Youth Camp in Hudson are among the region's latest confirmed cases of swine flu, health officials said Thursday.

The patients fell ill last week, and at least one sought treatment at a clinic in Hernando County, said Deanna Krautner, public information officer for the Pasco County Health Department. She did not have information on which clinic.

Anthony Laviano, owner of the Care One of Florida urgent care center on Mariner Boulevard just north of County Line Road in Spring Hill, confirmed Thursday that he treated both patients and sent samples to health officials. Laviano said both patients were exhibiting common flu symptoms, but that their conditions were not life-threatening.

Both Krautner and Laviano declined to disclose the genders or ages of the patients.

The camper was attending last week's teen camp for children 13 to 18, said John Nelson, executive vice president of Word of Life Fellowship Inc. Word of Life runs faith-based Christian summer camps in Florida and New York that attract children from throughout the country.

Some other children have shown signs of illness and have been sent home, Nelson said, but he did not have an estimate of how many.

He also did not have an exact number of campers at the facility last week, but said the Florida facility is operating at near its capacity of about 300 children each week this summer.

Camp officials have followed guidelines set by health officials, Nelson said. The facility, about a half-mile south of Hudson Avenue and just west of the Suncoast Parkway, has been thoroughly cleaned.

The camp also notified parents of children who were at the camp last week, who are there now or who plan to attend in the coming weeks, Nelson said. He said he wasn't aware of any cancellations or parents pulling their children from this week's camp due to concerns about the virus.

The World Health Organization raised the swine flu pandemic warning to the highest level last month, but that's because of the widespread nature of the virus, not its severity.

"This is still a very mild flu," said Doc Kokol, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health.

It's no longer necessary for physicians to test for swine flu except for unusual circumstances, such as if the patient is admitted to the hospital or appears to be part of a cluster of similar cases, Kokol said.

The flu can be serious for patients with underlying health issues. Many of those who have died from the virus had other medical problems.

Laviano, the clinic owner, said he thought these cases warranted tests because they involved a children's camp.

"You're looking at potential risk for a large group of people from throughout the United States," Laviano said.

Prior to the cases at the camp, there had been one confirmed case of swine flu in Hernando and eight in Pasco. The latest cases will be officially added to Pasco's count, bringing it to 10, Krautner said.

As of Thursday, there have been 1,302 confirmed swine flu cases in Florida and five deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There have been 33,902 cases in the country and 53 deaths.

Statistic show that the virus seems to be infecting a higher number of young people, Kokol said.

"That is something that's unique to this novel flu," he said.

Health officials remind the public about the basic steps to help curb the spread of the flu: wash hands, cover the mouth when coughing and sneezing, and stay home if you feel ill.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Swine flu cases confirmed at Word of Life Youth Camp in Pasco 07/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 3, 2009 9:01am]

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