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Health Officials Keep Track Of Swine Flu

By Staff | Apr 29, 2009

The recent outbreaks of Swine Influenza has caused a worldwide alert and local health officials are certainly keeping an eye toward keeping local residents healthy.

Dorothy Lockett, assistant administrator at the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department, said they hare having daily teleconferences on a regional and state level to keep abreast of the ever-changing situation.

As of Tuesday afternoon there were 64 confirmed cases in United States and 2,000 in Mexico, not to mention other cases worldwide. Lockett says health officials expect for the case count in the US to continue to rise and they expect there will be some in West Virginia.

“They do expect that there will be some deaths from this,” she warned. “They just say that it’s a matter of time.”

One positive aspect of the response is that Lockett said every since 9-11 there has been a lot of planning for such an outbreak. Also, she noted that two of the antiviral drugs that are out there are working on the influenza. While they don’t cure it, they do minimizes symptoms and hopefully shorten its duration.

For current information on Swine Influenza and tips for prevention, she suggests checking out www.cdc.gov/swineflu. “It is an excellent site. It give you the current case count,” she said. “It just has everything that you need.”

Wetzel County Hospital leaders have also been meeting daily to get a jump on preventative measures needed to prepare staff and the hospital for a possible outbreak of swine flu.

“We are in a preventative and precautionary mode,” said George Couch, chief executive officer of Wetzel County Hospital. “We are receiving updates and maintaining communications with the Centers for Disease Control, West Virginia Department of Health, and Wetzel/Tyler County Health Department. All appropriate departments of the hospital have a plan of action in the event there is a suspected, probable, or confirmed case identified.”

Couch said on Monday information was distributed to the hospital Emergency Department staff as to what to look for if a patient arrives with possible swine flu signs or symptoms. Public information on the swine flu has also been made available in the hospital registration area and Emergency Department. “We are also keeping our staff updated by distributing the most recent alerts and educational materials that we receive from appropriate authorities to assure that we are prepared if the situation regionally and locally should change.

“We’ve have also had internal management meetings to determine the appropriate course of action if the flu presents itself at the hospital,” he added. “Those patients who come to our emergency department with flulike symptoms are being tested for the Influenza A and Influenza B virus. Positive Influenza A results will be sent to the West Virginia Department of Health for further testing of the swine flu.”

According to Jenny Abbott, R.N. and infection control director for Wetzel County Hospital, local health care professionals have been notified what to do if a patient presents with flulike symptoms and have traveled to Mexico in the last seven days.

It takes 24 to 48 hours for the symptoms to develop.

Couch and Abbot emphasized there is no reason for area residents to jump into a reactive mode. “There is no need to panic,” Abbott said.

“We have not been notified of any local cases,” Couch said. “We suggest that everyone pay attention to their local and national media who are providing regular updates on how this outbreak is affecting the nation and our area.”

Abbott said the best thing area residents can do is practice the same general hygiene procedures used during traditional cold and flu seasons.

“The most important message we have is about prevention for the community,” Abbott said. “Wash your hands, cover coughs, and if you don’t feel well, just stay home.”

The health department also recommends getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing your stress, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Infected people may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

“According to recommendations from CDC, all health care providers who see patients with flulike symptoms and learn that the patient traveled to Mexico, affected counties in Southern California or Texas during the seven days preceding their illness onset, should have nasal swab samples from the patient tested,” said Abbott.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, swine flu presents itself in the same way any other strain of the flu would – with a fever over 100 degrees, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, chills, headache and body aches, and fatigue.

“Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions,” said a CDC health advisory issued Sunday.

Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.

CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe.

Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.