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Idaho Prepares For Possible Swine Flu Cases

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Idaho public health officials are asking medical providers to continue monitoring respiratory illnesses that might be related to the swine flu outbreak. Although the number of reports of respiratory illnesses in the state has been decreasing in recent weeks, public health officials are asking healthcare providers to consider swine flu in people who exhibit flu-like symptoms, especially those with a travel history to affected areas.

The Idaho Division of Public Health issued a health alert to healthcare providers last Friday concerning the swine flu outbreak, which appears to be centered in Mexico, but has since been confirmed in five U.S. states. Because of the high number of Idaho travelers, health officials have asked providers to collect cultures from suspect cases that can be analyzed at the Idaho State Laboratory.

To date, four reports of people with flu-like illnesses are being investigated. Three of the people live in Madison County, the fourth is from Ada County. Specimen samples from all four are being shipped for laboratory testing.

“With the large amount of travel by Idahoans, we would not be surprised to find cases in our state,” says Dr. Christine Hahn M.D., Idaho State Epidemiologist. “Thankfully, the U.S. infections reported so far have been mild illnesses. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our Idaho public health districts to increase surveillance and aggressively investigate possible reports in our state.”

Investigation of the swine flu outbreak is in the early stages, with health officials still learning about the severity of illness the virus may cause and its capacity to spread from person-to-person. As a precautionary measure, the CDC will soon begin shipping medications and supplies to states in case the outbreak becomes more serious.

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If the virus becomes easily transmissible among people and causes serious illness, people may be asked to stay home to help reduce the spread of infection.

Symptoms of the swine flu are similar to seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting. People cannot contract the infection from eating properly cooked pork.

Dr. Hahn says the best thing people can do to prevent infections and remain healthy is to follow good respiratory etiquette. This includes:

* Wash your hands after being out in the public, or after coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth;

* Cover your cough or sneeze, or cough into your elbow;

* If you are sick, stay home from work or school. Protect your co-workers and friends. Please don’t travel when you are sick; and

* Avoid close contact with people who are sick.