Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Cluster

A new swine flu cluster has popped up at an Air Force base in the Florida panhandle.

The Northwest Florida Daily News reports that at least 63 airmen at Hurlburt Field are suspected of having the virus. A base spokesperson said most of the cases were among members of the same organization, although she did not identify the unit.

According to the paper, swine flu has been confirmed in four of the individuals. There are no plans to test other people with the same symptoms for the presence of the virus. Officials with the health department in Okaloosa County--where Hurlburt is located--said it is no common practice to test each case.

Hurlburt is part of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and its personnel maintain a heavy deployment schedule. So far, the USAF has not said if the affected individuals recently returned from an overseas rotation.

The Hurlburt cluster is the first in Northwest Florida. Statewide, there have been more than 2,000 swine flu cases in Florida--and 23 confirmed fatalities.

While the service has been tracking the swine flu outbreak, it did not publicly confirm the cases until after a query from the Daily News. Airmen believed to have the virus were told to stay home until symptoms subsided. They must be cleared by the base medical group before being allowed to return to work.

Hurlburt is the second Air Force installation to report a sizable cluster of swine flue cases. At least 67 members of the new freshman class at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs tested positive for the H1N1 virus last month. At one point, 121 cadets were being held in isolation because they had flu-like symptoms, or had confirmed cases of the swine flu.

Affected cadets were being held in isolation for at least seven days. The Colorado Springs Gazette said the number of sick cadets represented about 10% of recently-arrived freshmen.

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