Outbreak Of Swine Flu In Pittsburg Co.

Thursday, July 23rd 2009, 9:51 am
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

McALESTER, OK -- Health workers have confirmed what is the largest outbreak of the H1N1 virus or swine flu in Oklahoma, so far.  Eight soldiers came down with the virus at the Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester.  All eight have recovered.

On July 16th, eight soldiers who had been working at the Army Ammunition Plant were tested after reporting flu-like symptoms.  On Wednesday, it was confirmed that all of them had the H1N1 virus.  The soldiers were training with Golden Cargo, a national military exercise that teaches military personnel to handle and transport ammunition.

"We're units from all over the country. Like I said, don't know if it was brought with him or if they caught it here. I can not speculate on that," said Army Captain Alex Monje.

Captain Monje says the soldiers were quarantined, treated, and have already recovered.

The ammunition plant does sit on federal property, so it is not possible to get very close to it, but public health officials off the base say the Army handled the situation the right way.

"They did an excellent job. It was controlled very well.  Through our investigation, we don't believe the public or community has been put at any greater risk," said Melissa Tidwell with the Pittsburg County Health Department.

News of the confirmed cases came as Oklahoma is working to prepare for more H1N1 infections during this fall flu season.  The state will receive more than $4 million in grant money that will be used for vaccinations and public awareness campaigns.  It's a virus health officials say they are now much more prepared to deal with.

"Now we know better how the virus is behaving and how it's transmitted from person to person," said Melissa Tidwell with the Pittsburg County Health Department.

As for the soldiers, H1N1 did not earn them much R and R.  All eight are already back at work at the Army Ammunitions Plant.           

There have now been more than 180 confirmed cases of the virus in Oklahoma.