CORVALLIS - Two Corvallis residents have been hospitalized with pandemic influenza (H1N1) and at least another two have confirmed cases of the virus, commonly called swine flu.
And according to a Corvallis woman, two of her children are sick after attending an eastern Oregon youth camp which recently confirmed an H1N1 outbreak.
Benton County Public Health Charlie Fautin said that because testing for the pandemic virus is now done only in serious cases, officials don't know exactly how many cases there are in the county.
"What we do know is over the weekend we got confirmed back on four positive tests on Corvallis residents for H1N1," Fautin said.
The two people who have been hospitalized are both employees of the Safeway store at 527 S.W. Philomath Blvd. One patient is in his 20s and the other is in her 40s.
Larry Mullins, president and chief executive officer of Samaritan Health Services, said the organization can't comment on any specific cases, but the center has been seeing and treating patients with H1N1 for some time. Some of those patients were treated and released and some required hospitalization.
A spokesman for Safeway did not return calls Tuesday.
Fautin emphasized that the meaningful part of the latest cases isn't about Safeway.
"That's where it popped up, but it's in the community," Fautin said.
The virus also may be in the county from an outbreak that happened at a summer camp - which led a Corvallis mother to a startling discovery about how the Oregon Health Plan regards H1N1.
Jennifer Cole's 15-year-old daughter and 17-year-old stepdaughter attended a Young Life camp in eastern Oregon last week. Breanne Unangst, 17, was one of several campers who became ill with flu symptoms at the camp. By the time the session ended on Saturday, several campers were sick.
On Tuesday evening, the North Central Public Health District in The Dalles confirmed six cases from the camp were H1N1. Other cases are presumed to be the virus as well.
Cole's daughter Savannah, 15, also was at the camp when she started getting sick Sunday. She was prescribed an anti-viral with the brand name Tamiflu. But Cole said the Oregon Health Plan wouldn't cover the medication, which needs to be administered within 48 hours of symptoms.
Mullins confirmed the Oregon Health Plan doesn't cover antivirals.
"The state does not consider flu a covered item under the Oregon Health Plan, so therefore they don't cover any treatments related to it, including antivirals," he said.
Mullins said Good Samaritan is trying to convince the state that given the unique circumstances of swine flu, the drugs should be covered. Until then, Good Samaritan has taken the position that the organization will cover the medicine. Mullins said they'd rather err on the side of coverage, even if the state won't pay them back.
Cole's children were treated at the Corvallis Clinic.
Dr. William Ferguson, board president of the Corvallis Clinic, said he didn't know about insurance coverage, but that the clinic is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control. According to the CDC, there have been a few people found to have H1N1 infections resistant to antivirals.
"We would use the antivirals if they were appropriate," he said.
Rebecca Barrett, a spokeswoman for the Corvallis Clinic, said physicians look at treatment on a case-by-case basis, regardless of insurance coverage.
Cole said her physician had been diligently working to get the family the medicine, but the obstacle was frustrating.
"What are people on the Oregon Health Plan supposed to do?" Cole said.
The Young Life camp, which was held at the Washington Family Ranch in Antelope, was closed July 26. A re-opening date has not been set.
Fautin said regardless of what strain of flu people might be infected with, they should not go to work or public places when sick.
"It's the flu, and anyone who's ill should stay home," he said.
The recommended length of time to stay home is a minimum of 24 hours after being without fever or five days since the onset of symptoms, whichever is longer.
"People need to act like it's winter and flu season," Fautin said.
Cole was taking precautions by wearing a surgical mask to her job as a manicurist.
"I've told everyone ahead of time and everyone seems to be OK with it," she said.
Fautin wanted to clarify a persistent rumor regarding the Safeway cases.
Fautin said his office has received many calls about the Safeway employees, some from people under the mistaken impression they could have been exposed to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and should stay home no matter their condition.
There's absolutely no indication that SARS is in Benton County, Fautin said. The disease hasn't been active since the 2003 outbreak.