Local response to Swine Flu

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Press release from the Fort Wayne-Allen County Health Department:

Health officials monitoring swine flu cases
Residents reminded that handwashing, cough etiquette best ways to prevent spread of germs

Local health officials are concerned about the possibility of an outbreak of swine influenza and are urging residents to practice good respiratory hygiene and stay home if they are sick as the best ways to reduce their risk.

To date, 40 cases of swine influenza A have been confirmed in five states, including California, Kansas, New York City, Ohio and Texas prompting the U.S. to declare a public health emergency. No cases have been confirmed in Indiana but health officials believe that more cases will be identified over the next several weeks. There have been no deaths reported in the U.S and most cases have been mild.

While the outbreak has not reached the level of a pandemic, it appears to be spreading rapidly and people should take proper precautions, says Allen County Health Commissioner Deb. McMahan, MD.

“Just as the health department is reviewing its emergency response plans, other government entities, schools, businesses, social service agencies, and families should review their own emergency plans,” McMahan says.

“It’s also important that everyone practices good respiratory hygiene at this time. Washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and staying home if you are sick are the best ways to prevent the spread of disease.”

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health is receiving updates from Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the situation is continually changing. Members of the county’s public health disaster response team met today to discuss how to respond to an outbreak of an infectious disease locally if the need should arise.

Investigators are trying to determine the source of the infection. The CDC is working with state and local officials in the affected states, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization.

The CDC has determined this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, they have not determined how easily the virus spreads between people.
It is important to note that the virus is not transmitted by food. Eating properly handled and cooked pork is safe as the cooking process kills the swine flu virus as it does for other bacteria and viruses.

Much like regular seasonal flu, the symptoms of this illness in humans can include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

People experiencing flu-like symptoms should call their physician or health care provider for further instructions.

Because this is a new strain of an influenza virus, there is no vaccine available. As with any infectious disease, people can take everyday preventative measures to reduce their chances of getting sick, including:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, rather than your hands, if a tissue is not available.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Individuals aged 65 and older or those with chronic diseases and immune deficiencies are at higher risk for severe complications from influenza, including pneumonia. If these individuals have not received the pneumococcal vaccine, they should discuss with their physician getting the vaccine.

Again, the best way to prevent the spread of disease is for you or a member of your household to stay at home if you are sick or have a fever.

For updates on the current human swine influenza A (H1N1) investigation, the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security have created a Twitter profile.

Additional information about flu prevention may be found here.  

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