Colo. Health Officials Test Traveling Youth Choir for H1N1 Virus

Health officials in Colorado believe several children visiting the state with their church's youth choir group have contracted the H1N1 flu virus, though tests have not yet been completed.

"We are evaluating several of the ill individuals, and they are being tested for H1N1 influenza," Dr. Bernadette Albanese, the medical director of the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment in Colorado Springs, told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday. "The illnesses would meet the qualifications of an outbreak."

On Wednesday, the group of children from Exultation – the 75-voice youth choir of Grace Presbyterian Church in Plano, Texas – stopped by Colorado Springs after many complained of shortness of breath and fevers in the last few days of their eight-day trip through four different states.

The children, ranging from early teens to late teens, had been traveling since last Friday as part of their "2009 Exultation and Credo Mission Tour," which was scheduled to conclude Saturday with a home concert at their church.

"[F]rom almost the first day of tour, we've had students getting sick," the director of the group reported Tuesday in the tour's blog. By the fourth day, a number of students reported catching the virus that was going around, altitude sickness, or both, she added.

Though Albanese told the Dallas Morning that the virus likely spread quickly through the two buses that the children were traveling on, some children have returned to Plano as they were deemed in good health.

Furthermore, there is no news to date on whether the city officials in Amarillo, Texas, and Englewood, Colo., have been notified regarding the possible "swine flu" outbreak. In Amarillo, the children performed for the homeless at Faith City Ministries, and in Englewood, they performed at First Presbyterian Church and The Meridian, a retirement community.

As of Friday, there have been a total of 21,449 reported cases of the H1N1 virus, including 87 that led to deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On June 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to "Phase 6" in response to the ongoing global spread of the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. A "Phase 6" designation indicates that a global pandemic is underway.