H1N1 Colorado Cases Prompt Concern, Prevention

Doctors: Hand Washing Best Defense

Two confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza virus in Colorado Thursday had doctors giving reminders about healthy habits to keep people from getting sick.

“We still need to be vigilant,” said Ned Calonge, the state’s chief medical officer, at a press briefing.

Calonge confirmed a woman in her 30s from Arapahoe County had tested positive for the new strain of flu, along with a man in his 40s from Douglas County. The female, who recently returned from a cruise, was not hospitalized, Calonge said.

He added the man connected to the H1N1 outbreak was hospitalized and works as a baggage handler at DIA.

Despite assurances from health officials any risk to the traveling public was considered low, there was concern about whether the germ could spread on the handle of suitcases to owners -- in the event the DIA employee was sick while on the job.

“This virus doesn’t last very long on inanimate surfaces,” said Dr. Chris Ubrina, Denver’s director of public health.

A spokesman for United Airlines said the employee, who was not identified, had not been at work since April 23, due to scheduled time off.

“We have been in touch with him and we’re pleased he’s out of the hospital,” said Rahsahn Johnson.

Public health officials were still investigating where and when the man got sick.

Dr. Michelle Barron, Medical Director for infection control at University of Colorado Hospital, told 7NEWS the flu virus can survive on some surfaces, in optimal situations, for three to six hours.

“These things don’t jump off the surfaces though,” Barron explained. “You have to have contact with your hands and then from your hands to your nose, mouth and eyes.”

Barron urged Coloradans to wash their hands frequently -- especially after shaking hands, touching door knobs and before eating.

Denver airport managers said while operations were considered “business as usual,” cleaning crews were paying extra attention to places people touch with their hands like hand rails and elevator buttons.

“We’re going to Vegas,” exclaimed Amber Page, as she and her girlfriends made their way through DIA.

The group said they were prepared. “We’ve got our Purell hand sanitizer, Vitamin C, and moist towelettes.”