PDT Staff Writer
On Sunday the federal government declared a public health emergency, with confirmed cases of the swine flu reaching 40 by press time. The Ohio Department of Health at that time confirmed a 9-year-old boy in Lorain County has been diagnosed with swine flu. Southern Ohio officials are urging people to take extra precautions to avoid getting the flu.
Officials with both city and county health departments met Sunday night with representatives from Southern Ohio Medical Center, Scioto County Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross to assess the local situation.
According to a released statement by the Scioto County Health Department and the Portsmouth City Health Department:
“It is important to note that everyone affected has recovered or is recovering without complications. At this time, it is recommended that individuals with a quick onset of flu symptoms, including high fever, headache and cough should contact their local heath care provider,” Dr. Randall L. Schlegel, D.C., Emergency Planner with the Scioto County and Portsmouth City Health Departments said.
“People should practice good personal hygiene, including frequent hand washing with soap and warm water or use alcohol hand sanitizer gels. Cover your mouth or cough into your sleeve, throw your tissues away in the garbage after each use, stay home when you are sick, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and limit contact with sick individuals.”
It’s expected the number of swine flu cases will increase before it’s all said and done.
Dr. Aaron Adams, Scioto County Health Commissioner, said there is no good way to distinguish between a common cold and the swine flu.
“At this point what you have to be concerned about is following this (swine flu) as it progresses across the country. We think this is a new form of an influenza virus,” he said.
He said officials think what they are seeing in the United States is the same virus that has come from Mexico.
“This is an airborne virus and can generally be spread by coughing, sneezing, direct contact to your eyes, your noise, your mouth and your airway,” he said.
There are plans in place by the local agencies to deal with a flu outbreak should one occur in Scioto County. “We have what I think is an excellent plan on how to deal with this disaster. We have done pandemic flu drills in the past,” he said.
“Swine flu typically attacks the respiratory tract in pigs. In humans the symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”
There have been seven cases reported in California, two in Kansas, 28 in New York City, one in Ohio and two in Texas.
The World Health Organization raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from the current phase 3 to phase 4. The change to a higher phase of pandemic alert indicates that the likelihood of a pandemic has increased, but not that a pandemic is inevitable. As further information becomes available, WHO may decide to either revert to phase 3 or raise the level of alert to another phase.
For more information call the Scioto County Health Department at 354-3241 or the Portsmouth City Health Department at 353-5153. Both health departments can be reached after hours in an emergency at 352-2560. For detailed information visit the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.
WAYNE ALLEN can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 208.