“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.”
Kevin Johnson, of The Emporium on Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth, said he isn’t worried yet but he is concerned.
“There’s a difference between having a concern and being worried. I’m not worried, but do I have a concern? Absolutely. If the federal government is making an issue of it and suggesting we do take simple precautions then I think we should take that seriously,” he said.
Beginning Friday, Johnson requires everyone entering his business to wash their hands with hand-sanitizer provided at a station next to the door. Johnson also provides sanitary napkins throughout the store for customers to use and immediately throw away.
“My concern is, especially in an antique shop, people like to pick things up and hands are the number one thing that I read on the federal Web site that tends to spread by touch. We’re always touching our mouth or nose, and that’s how colds are transmitted. It’s just a precaution,” Johnson said.
By noon on Friday, Johnson said he had already had about 12 customers in his store, and all of them appreciated, complied, and thanked him for the effort.
Kroger, in Portsmouth and Wheelersburg, also has complimentary Lysol hand sanitizing wipes for customers to wipe their hands and carts before every use. It has been a service practiced at both locations long before the outbreak of swine flu was announced.
Mark Knapp, superintendent at Wheelersburg School, said he’s thankful swine flu has not yet reached Scioto County Schools, but said it is still of great concern to all superintendents in the county.
“We received instruction from State Superintendent (Deborah) Delisle with some recommendations, and one of those recommendations was, if we would have a confirmed case it might be necessary to close school for seven days. That obviously concerns us a great deal,” Knapp said.
Air ventilation systems installed in the new Wheelersburg K-12 school building is continuously recycling air from inside the building with air outside. Also, custodial crews at Wheelersburg use disinfectants, the school nurse is on vigilant look-out, and rest room facilities use touchless, automatic sinks.
“We use hand sanitizers at lunch, in the lunch room, for students that go through, just trying to practice good hygiene and we’re very hopeful this will not affect us,” Knapp said.
Knapp said Wheelersburg was as prepared to handle an outbreak as they could be. He hopes to get through the final three weeks of school without having to cancel classes, or some of the upcoming student activities — including a eighth grade field trip to Washington D.C.
Dr. Aaron Adams, Scioto County Health Commissioner, said there is no good way to distinguish between a common cold and the swine flu. He said there are already 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.
The Ohio Department of Health on Sunday (April 26) confirmed a 9-year-old boy in Lorain County has been diagnosed with swine flu, marking the first — and so-far only — confirmed case in Ohio. On Friday, Ohio News Network reported more suspected cases have been reported in Ohio this week including five other cases out of Columbus, two suspected cases out of Ross County, at least two in Montgomery County, one in Tuscarawas County and another in Wood County. ONN also reported Warren County Health Officials are awaiting test results from a student at Springboro High School who was tested after returning from a family trip to Mexico.
As of press time on Friday, there were 141 reported cases of swine flu in the United States. New York has the most reported cases, with 50, followed by Texas with 28. Texas also has the only confirmed death caused by swine flu in the United States.
Because of the quickly spreading swine flu, the World Health Organization on April 29 raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 5, described as a “strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Government has declared a public health emergency.
By comparison, the CDC also reports 36,000 deaths from the common flu in the United States each year.
The CDC also said there is no evidence that swine flu can be transmitted through properly handled and cooked pork, recommending pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 160-degrees to kill bacteria and viruses.
For more information call the Scioto County Health Department at (740) 354-3241 or the Portsmouth City Health Department at (740) 353-5153. Both health departments can be reached after hours in an emergency at (740) 352-2560. For detailed information visit the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or by e-mail at email@example.com.