The threat of a pandemic has local health officials on high alert. They’re concerned about a possible swine flu outbreak here. The swine flu has already sickened dozens of people in the United States. Our Lauren Unger tells us what we need to know.
The most important thing for people to know right now is that there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Louisiana. The disease has symptoms that are similar to the regular flu, but it originated from pigs. It can be passed by human to human contact. There’s no vaccine available to treat this strain. Right now, here in Baton Rouge the focus is on preparation and prevention.
People across the word are wearing masks and some schools in New York, South Carolina, and Texas shut down because some of their students are sick with suspected cases of swine flu. Marchella Martino, a student, says, “In the nurse’s office they had chairs all along the hallway on both sides, it’s crazy.”
The World Health Organization reports 40 known cases across the United States. Dr. Richard Besser of Centers for Disease Control explains, “We are taking a very aggressive approach to understanding and controlling this outbreak.” They’re also taking action at local hospitals. Our Lady of the Lake’s Dr. Richard Vath says, “The first thing is to educate our physicians to make sure that they appropriately recognize those at risk, and then properly diagnose them.” They say they have a plan in place and plenty of Tamiflu, a medication doctors say is effective in treating swine flu. But for now, their emergency room is quiet. “It hasn’t been an issue just yet, but we fully anticipate it will. Usually when we have any type of scare like this, everybody gets really concerned when they have any of these symptoms.”
Common symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, coughing, and fever. But if you have any of these, officials say the emergency room might not be your best bet for the fastest care. “We actually urge that people go to urgent care centers of their physician.” Many local pharmacies tell us they also have received calls. Most have plenty of Tamiflu in stock and some have even ordered masks. A community prepared even if the disease never comes within our borders.
Here’s what officials are recommending you do to keep yourself and those around you safe. Wash your hands often, don’t touch your nose, eyes, or mouth (that’s how germs are spread), avoid contact with people who are sick, and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough and sneeze. As we mentioned, if you feel ill, avoid contact with others and call your doctor.