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NY State Put On High Alert For Swine Flu

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Governor David A. Paterson today announced that he has activated New York State’s health emergency preparedness plan, and put the State on high alert to quickly identify and respond to any cases of swine flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed eight cases of a new strain of influenza (swine flu H1N1) in New York City, and has declared a public health emergency. As a course of normal operating procedure during events such as this, it is common, and welcomed, for the CDC to make a declaration of public health emergency. This enables the State and localities to receive quicker access to vital resources, and other necessary assistance.

“Many New Yorkers are understandably concerned about the identification of swine flu in New York State, and I want to assure everyone that New York State has the strongest statewide disease monitoring, laboratory and health care response system in the nation,” said Governor Paterson. “We are coordinating a strong response with the CDC and city and county health departments. We also activated a 24 hour toll-free hotline that New Yorkers across the State can use to get answers to their questions.”

Governor Paterson also reported that the hotline received over 300 calls in the first four hours of operation Sunday. The hotline is 1-800-808-1987.

New York State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. said: “We have been preparing for an event such as this for years. We have the finest public health and health care systems and adequate supplies to address swine flu. We are implementing comprehensive plans that have been developed and practiced for many years and will mobilize our stockpiles of medical supplies as needed.”

Governor Paterson said that results confirming eight swine flu cases in New York City were expected. “We have been operating on the assumption that the CDC test results would be positive for swine flu and had already activated a strong statewide system to rapidly identify and respond to any additional cases. To date, this system has not identified an increased level of influenza activity, although the outbreak is still in the early stages,” continued Governor Paterson.

“Today I am also pleased to announce that the DOH’s Wadsworth Center laboratory is reporting that testing for swine flu on eight samples from Suffolk County, including one sample from a student in the Amityville school district and seven samples from Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, were negative for any type of influenza,” said Governor Paterson.

Governor Paterson said the State coordinates its response in part through New York’s web-based Health Alert Network (HAN) to communicate and coordinate disease monitoring activity, laboratory testing, and health care response with county health departments, hospitals and other health care providers. An advisory issued through the HAN Saturday evening was sent to 25,000 recipients. In addition, the State is taking other actions, including:

o DOH's Wadsworth laboratory has developed a sophisticated prioritization protocol for testing samples to assure rapid identification of severe illness.

o DOH is monitoring the utilization of resources to assure the most efficient use of medicines, masks, and other supplies.

o DOH has implemented its rapid internet reporting of suspect illness, providing complete, real time understanding as the situation unfolds.

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o DOH is in continuous, ongoing communication with counties, hospitals, other health care providers and schools across the state to assure the most up-to-date information is available.

DOH, in coordination with local health departments and health care providers, is monitoring hospital emergency department visits for respiratory illness and monitoring volume of Medicaid prescriptions for influenza antiviral medications to quickly identify any increased influenza activity. Currently, no increased level of activity has been identified.

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Guthrie Birkhead, M.D., M.P.H., who heads DOH’s Office of Public Health, said: “Although the New York cases to date have been mild, we are in close communication with clinicians and hospitals to identify more serious cases, should they occur, and to make sure all necessary resources are available for treatment. I want to remind New Yorkers to take the same common sense precautions to prevent illness that you would take with any seasonal flu, such as staying home when you are ill. Parents do not need to keep otherwise healthy children home from school unless directed to do so by local school and health officials.”

It is important to note that ordinary seasonal flu, which has symptoms similar to swine flu, is still active in New York State. Precautionary measures for both seasonal flu and swine flu include:

o Washing your hands often with soap and warm water. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are also effective.

o Avoiding people who are ill.

o Staying home from work or school if you are sick.

o Using tissue when you cough, sneeze or spit, and dispose of the tissue in a covered trash bin.

o Keeping hands away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

o Cleaning shared space more often such as phone receivers, keyboards, steering wheels and office equipment.

o Refraining from sharing personal items such as forks, spoons, toothbrushes and towels.