Less concern, but emergency responders still brace for whatever swine flu bringsWhy was there such a global 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 and experts aren’t sure how human immune systems will react. There’s also no vaccination.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
Why was there such a global 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 and experts aren’t sure how human immune systems will react. There’s also no vaccination.
The good news, Sura said Friday, is that the fast spreading swine virus — now being called H1N1 — doesn’t seem to be a “killing type.”
“It has not shown itself to be virulent so far,” he said.
Sura added that some deaths linked to swine flu in Mexico may be suspect, given that country’s unreliable medical reporting methods. Patients, he said, rarely die from the flu, but rather from related complications, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
Last week the River Falls Medical Clinic had “two suspected cases” of swine flu.
Nasal and oral cultures for both patients were sent to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene. Both have since come back negative for swine flu.
According to Jennifer Loesch, a River Falls Area Hospital nurse and quality and infection control manager, swine flu cases confirmed in Madison are then called “probable.”
The probables get sent for further analysis to the national Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. They become officially “confirmed cases” when the CDC says.
Loesch said the local medical clinic and hospital were taking calls from people wondering if their sickness could be related to swine flu. Those calls have tapered off.
The good news: Existing anti-viral medication appears effective against swine flu.
Sura said swine flu, like any other flu, has these obvious symptoms: Cough, running nose, and, particularly, body and muscle aches along with severe fatigue.
“You feel like it’s hard just getting out of bed,” he said.
The normal 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:
n Either having traveled recently to Mexico or several other states where bunches of confirmed swine flu cases have occurred.
n Or coming in contact with someone who’s 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 set up and coordinated emergency procedures and resources with the local 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.
The River Falls School District sent out a letter to parents Friday saying there were “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’s a confirmed swine flu case of a student or staff member, notification about school closings will be done just like on 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.
Tuesday afternoon Westerhaus said that, based on the latest information from the CDC, he will make decisions on any school closures on a case by case basis — and not automatically.
The Pierce County Health 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.
Sue Galoff, head of the county’s health department, said caution is still needed.
“At this point it does appear to be a more mild virus than first thought and we’re less nervous than before,” she said. “But there’s still concern that the virus could change. We’re in a watchful waiting state. Everything’s in place for whatever needs to be done.”