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State settles in for swine flu fight

ST. PAUL - State health officials are tweaking their H1N1 swine influenza guidelines as Minnesota settles in for an unpredictable flu fight that could last months.

Doctors and clinicians have sent more than 400 samples from patients with flu symptoms to the Health Department for H1N1 swine flu testing. Officials confirmed one case and identified another six probable cases.

Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan said Monday her agency only wants health-care providers to send samples from patients who are hospitalized for respiratory illness.

Also, school districts with a known H1N1 case can either close the affected school building or keep it open so long as the flu victim is isolated, Magnan said.

Last week the state said schools should follow federal guidelines and close if cases were identified.

The Health Department received a testing kit so that it can examine probable H1N1 swine flu cases, meaning it no longer will have to send samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Atlanta headquarters to get confirmation. The department expects to begin its own testing within two days.

Magnan and state Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said Minnesotans can help minimize the number of H1N1 swine flu cases by doing things as simple as washing hands, covering a cough and staying home from work or school if sick with flu symptoms.

The state's health chief said again Monday that she expects Minnesota will see more H1N1 swine flu cases and the outbreak could get severe.

"We are in this for months," Magnan said.

Scott Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.