By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times science reporter

The rapid spread of so-called “swine flu” among local school children shows that the virus is not fading away, a top regional health official said Thursday.

“We’re not out of the woods at all,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, chief of epidemiology for Public Health – Seattle and King County.

Nearly 70 percent of the confirmed cases in King County are in children between the ages of 5 and 18, Duchin told a special meeting of the King County Board of Health.

Confirmed cases are “only the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the total number of infections. Area emergency rooms also are reporting increasing numbers of sick children, he said.

The levels of infection in school-aged children seem to be slightly higher than during a normal flu season, Duchin said. Most of the illnesses are mild, though 11 school-aged children were hospitalized….

But in children who have never seen anything like this virus, the course of the illness and the infectious period are longer than with an ordinary flu strain, Duchin said. And that appears to be contributing to the bug’s spread, as sick children circulate instead of staying home for at least a week.

[Please follow the link – the numbers offer useful feedback on the ramifications of policy.  Useful graph.]