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First case of swine flu confirmed by CDC

Medical lab technician Vonnie Blommel checks out influenza testing kits Wednesday, April 29, 2009, at the Affiliated Community Medical Center in Willmar. The test kits can be used for testing purposes in influenza cases detected in west central Minnesota. (Ron Adams/West Central Tribune)

UPDATED 12:17 p.m.

COLD SPRING, Minn. - Minnesota's first swine flu case has been confirmed, leading a central Minnesota community to close two schools through Tuesday.

Rocori Middle School and nearby St. Boniface school will be closed because a woman connected to the public schools came down with the flu. She is recovering.

Other Cold Spring schools will remain open. Federal guidelines indicate a school should be closed for a week if swine flu is confirmed.

State health officials continue to look into whether the patient may have spread the flu and how she contracted the illness. They said their investigation of the confirmed case is limited to the Rocori Middle School community.

Rocori Superintendent Scott Staska said he has not been told the victim's name. The victim never was hospitalized and is expected to make a full recovery.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan said her agency is interviewing people who may have had contact with the victim.

Her department has tested about 100 potential flu specimens for swine flu characteristics in recent days, with another 50 still to test. They are specimens sent by physicians and other health providers whose patients reported flu symptoms; they are from throughout Minnesota.

Minnesota has only the one confirmed case, and the flu strain is difficult to predict, Magnan said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said state and local public health officials will do everything possible to contain the illness.

However, Pawlenty added: "Realistically, we have to acknowledge that we should expect more cases."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta today confirmed the illness was caused by what Minnesota officials call the "H1N1 novel influenza virus."

Pawlenty met with Cold Spring-area health, government and law enforcement officials this morning.

Health officials say Minnesotans can help themselves avoid getting the swine flu by taking care of themselves and using proper hygiene, such as frequently washing their hands. They can avoid infecting others by staying home when they are sick and covering their coughs and sneezes, health officials say.

The Health Department has launched a public hotline for information about the new flu strain. The phone - (800) 657-3903 - is answered 8 a.m. until 4:30p.m.