Growing Concerns over Swine Flu

Swine Flu: General Information

In Mexico, there have been seven-confirmed deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but its believed 149-other deaths may be related and some 1,600-hundred people in Mexico may infected.

Here in the U.S., there have been 45-confirmed cases but no deaths. 11-people in California are infected including a seventh-grade student in Sacramento.

Meanwhile, the governor has activated the state joint emergency operations system to help fight against the swine flu.

National Effort

At a government command center in Washington D.C., officials are working to solve a mystery. Dr. Richard Besser, acting director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "The situation is evolving quickly and changing quickly."

Forty-five cases of swine flu have been reported in five states. The largest cluster is 28 students at a private school in New York City.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "There's an important number here for New Yorkers to keep in mind; and that number is one. We have one reported cluster of swine flu at one school."

Schools in California, Texas, and Ohio are shut down. At the U.S.-Mexico border, anyone crossing into the U.S. will be watched for flu-like symptoms. There are no plans to close the border, but the government is warning against non-essential travel to Mexico.

President Barack Obama said, "This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it is not a cause for alarm."

The administration is making about twelve-million doses of anti-flu drugs like Tamiflu available to states.

"We are proceeding as if we are expecting a full pandemic," said Janet Napolitano with the Department of Homeland Security.

The drugs are not preventative vaccines but officials hope they can be effective against swine flu symptoms. The government is also urging common sense. "Common sense means wash your hands, stay home if you feel sick, covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze," said Janet Napolitano.

No one has died from swine flu in the U.S., but officials caution there is still much they don't know.

Monday, The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert level to four. That means there is an increased risk of a global pandemic, but it doesn't 't mean it's inevitable.

(Clayton Sandell, ABC News, Washington.)

State and County Effort

Health Departments throughout the state, including Fresno County, are stepping up their efforts to prepare for the possibility of more swine flu cases.

There are no confirmed cases in Fresno County, but health officials have started testing flu samples.

Last week, the county's Department of Public Health asked 10 area clinics and six hospitals to send in swab samples of suspicious flu-like symptoms. So far, they have received 55 samples. They've tested 12 of them, all of which have come back negative for the swine flu.

In addition to those tests, local health officials are giving more guidance to providers on how to spot possible swine flu cases. They're also making sure the county will have enough supplies, like medicine and masks, to deal with a possible outbreak. "We need to implement them because it takes a while to ramp up our capacity to respond to a potential pandemic. We also don't know as much as we'd like to about this virus," said Dr. Edward Moreno with the Department of Public Health.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health is working on a plan with the airport and local bus and train services so that they can protect people traveling to and from Mexico.

Fresno County officials said though all of the cases in California have been mild, they are not willing to take any chances, based on how many people have died so far in Mexico.

(Shannon Handy, ABC30 Action News, Fresno, Calif.)

Local Hospitals are on Alert

Local hospitals are making changes to prevent any potential swine flu cases from spreading.

Doctors and nurses here at Kaweah Delta Medical Center have been warned what swine flu might look like and how to deal with it. They want to make sure they can accurately identify swine flu if someone showing symptoms comes into the hospital.

Nursing staff and doctors here in the emergency room were notified early this morning by administrators that they should be on high alert to detect any swine flu symptoms. "We've informed them what the cases might look like and asked them to notify us if they think they have a case. The health dept is ready to handle the cultures if we do them," said Daniel Boken with Kaweah Delta Medical Center.

The staff is encouraging people to use hand sanitizing stations and avoid contact with people who are sick. "They were very sure that we cleaned our hands between exercising and at the end of the day they said now go down and wash with soap and water," said Gary Goddard, a cardiac rehab patient.

At Tulare Regional Medical Center, top administrators had a special meeting Monday afternoon to come up with an action plan in case swine flu hits locally. Hospital workers are handing out "flu bags" to anyone with flu symptoms. "Certainly it's something that we're paying attention to because we do have a large population that do visit back and forth to Mexico so we're trying to be prepared and be ready just in case," said Colette Quinley with the Tulare Regional Medical Center.

Starting Monday, the hospital is asking all visitors to use hand sanitizer at the front desk. Some people are worried swine flu will hit here in Tulare County. "I'm just concerned that nowadays it's just hard to tell what the flu is and what the flu isn't. You can catch something and think it's the flu and it's not," said Skip Volker of Tulare.

The flu-bags being handed out at Tulare Medical Center include a mask for coughing and tissues. Currently, there are no reported cases of swine flu in Kings or Tulare counties.

(Jessica Peres, ABC 30 Action News, Visalia)

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