Emergency responders prepare for whatever swine flu bringsWhy the fuss over another flu outbreak? River Falls Medical Clinic Dr. Pat Sura said it’s because this is a “novel” virus, meaning people haven’t been exposed to it before, experts aren’t sure how human immune systems will react and there’s is no vaccination.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
Why the fuss over another flu outbreak? River Falls Medical Clinic Dr. Pat Sura said it’s because this is a “novel” virus, meaning people haven’t been exposed to it before, experts aren’t sure how human immune systems will react and there’s is no vaccination.
The good news, Sura said Friday, is that the rapidly spreading swine virus, now being called H1N1, doesn’t seem to be a “killing type of virus.”
“It has not shown itself to be virulent so far,” he said, adding that while there have been deaths associated with swine flu in Mexico, that country’s medical reporting methods are suspect.
Interestingly, the River Falls Medical Clinic has had “two suspected cases” of swine flu this week.
Nasal and oral cultures for both patients were sent to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene. One came back as negative for swine flu. The other is still pending.
According to Jennifer Loesch, a River Falls Area Hospital nurse and quality and infection control manager, swine flu cases confirmed in Madison become “probable.” The results are sent to the national Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. They become officially confirmed cases only when the CDC says so.
Loesch said the local medical clinic and hospital have also taken calls this week from people who are sick and wondering if they should be checked for swine flu.
Anti-viral medication does exist that appears to be effective against swine flu.
Sura said swine flu, like any other flu, has several key symptoms: Cough, running nose, and, particularly, body and muscle aches plus severe fatigue. “You feel like it’s hard just getting out of bed,” he said.
The typical flu season runs from roughly October to the end of March. Loesch said normal flu cases can still pop up even in early May.
The swine flu factor still involves either having traveled recently to Mexico or several other states where confirmed swine flu cases have occurred, or coming in contact with someone who has traveled to those places.
Patients checked for flu symptoms at the River Falls Medical Clinic will probably be asked to wear a mask. The physician may also wear a mask, gown and gloves. “We’re trying to lessen the risk for transmission of the virus,” Sura said.
Loesch said the clinic and hospital are setting up and coordinating emergency procedures and resources with the ambulance service, county public health, UW-River Falls, the school district and Allina Hospitals.
“There is no state of panic, but we have a responsibility to be prepared and to take this seriously,” she said.
River Falls School District sent out a letter to parents Friday saying there are “no probable or confirmed cases” of swine flu with students, parents or staff. If that changes, parents will be immediately notified.
The letter, from Superintendent Tom Westerhaus, said that if there is a confirmed swine flu case of a student or staff member, notification about school closings will be done just like snow days – by TV, radio, local newspaper website and school district website.
Westerhaus asked parents to prepare backup plans if their children are forced to stay at home because of swine flu.
Pierce County Heath Department has set up a 24/7 call line for the latest updates on swine flu. Call 273-6847. The information is a recording.
These websites are also helpful: www.cdc.gov/swineflu, www.pandemic.wi.gov or www.co.pierce.wi.us/.