MOUNT VERNON — With the number of those infected or dead from the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico increasing, as well as the number of those infected throughout the world, officials in Knox County are ready to jump into action should a case of the contagious strain make its way to the area.
The Knox County Health Department started as early as Saturday to get a jump on preventative measures needed to prepare the Knox County medical staff for a possible outbreak of swine flu.
“We are in a preventative and precautionary mode,” said Dennis Murray, Knox County health commissioner. “It’s just kind of a wait-and-see mode.”
Murray said on Monday morning that the health department was sending out a health alert to all health-care providers in the county with tips on what to look for if a possible swine flu diagnosis is pending.
“We’ve also talked with Mary Day at Knox Community Hospital, the infections control director, about what happens if the flu presents itself at the hospital,” said Jackie Fletcher, nursing director at the health department.
“Knox Community Hospital is working with and is in constant communication with the Knox County Health Department to identify local cases of swine flu,” said Stacey Beal, director of marketing and community relations for KCH. “Those patients presenting 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 Ohio Department of Health for further testing of the swine flu.”
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 flu, according to the CDC, is “a respiratory disease of pigs caused by a Type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza among pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. ... Public health officials have determined that this strain of swine flu virus spreads from human to human and can cause illness.”
According to Murray and Fletcher, 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.
“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,” stated a press release issued by the Ohio Department of Health on Sunday.
One case of swine flu has been confirmed in a 9-year-old boy in Loraine County. Channel 10 News reported this morning a second case is suspected in Wood County but has yet to be confirmed. Murray and Fletcher said there is no reason for Knox County residents to jump into a reactive mode.
“There is no need to panic,” Fletcher said.
“We have not been notified of any local cases, which is good,” Murray said. “We suggest to everyone that they pay attention to their local media — the Mount Vernon News and local radio stations — this is where you will find the information that is relevant to our residents.”
Fletcher 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,” Fletcher said. “Wash your hands, cover coughs and if you don’t feel well, just stay home.”
“In the past, almost all of these cases have been mild illnesses, and people recovered spontaneously. And that seems to be what’s happening now, at least in areas outside of Mexico. What countries outside of Mexico have been experiencing seems more like the common flu — just the source of the virus is different. It remains to be seen why the cases in Mexico have been more serious,” said Mo Saif, head of the Ohio State Univeristy’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster.