April 28, 2009
Possible cases of swine flu in county
Officials expect test results to return by the end of today
CORTLAND — Public health officials are testing two suspected cases of swine flu and investigating a third in Cortland County, according to the county Health Department.
The county initially announced one suspected case on Monday, but today said a second person had been tested and a third unrelated case was being investigated.
A state Department of Health laboratory tested two samples Monday. The test results are expected to return today or tomorrow, said Catherine Feuerherm, director of the county Health Department.
Feuerherm said these are among the first suspected cases of swine flu in upstate New York but that she could not say they were the first or only ones. There have been no confirmed cases in upstate New York yet, she said.
The person initially suspected to have the virus lives in Cortland County and works in southern Madison County, Eric Faisst, Madison County public health director, confirmed this morning.
Feuerherm said the person has cooperated with the directive to stay at home.
The others were not identified.
Faisst said the Madison County Health Department has contacted the employees of the first person suspected to have the symptoms and advised them to take their temperatures twice daily and to contact their doctor if they experience any flu-like symptoms.
Neither Faisst nor Feuerherm would give more details on the suspected case this morning, but they said they would release more information if the test result for swine flu is positive.
“Sick people should stay at home,” Feuerherm said. They should also contact their physicians, she said.
She said that some people with flu-like symptoms are walking around the county and not taking the virus seriously enough.
“People should not panic, but they should take it seriously enough to follow the directive,” Feuerherm said.
Feuerherm said the virus could be “stopped dead in its tracks,” but that it is more likely that it will continue to spread to other parts of the nation.
The county Health Department alerted all local physicians Monday and sent them documents explaining the symptoms and recommended treatments, Feuerherm said.
There were 50 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States: 28 at a private high school in New York City, 13 in California, six in Texas, two in Kansas and one in Ohio. Only one American case has led to a hospitalization.
Swine flu has killed over 150 people in Mexico, and schools have been canceled nationwide.
Denise Mironti, senior vice president of patient care services at Cortland Regional Medical Center, said the hospital has had a flu pandemic plan in place for years and will follow the plan if swine flu spreads into this area.
A pandemic as an illness that is spread over a large geographic area and infecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.
Mironti said the hospital has posted signs with the symptoms of swine flu inside the hospital so that people with those symptoms can be treated immediately and given masks.
“We’re working quickly to make sure if anyone does come with symptoms we’re immediately treating them and making sure it does not become what it’s become in Mexico,” Mironti said. “We want to make sure we prevent the spread of it as best as we can.”
The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of common human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting from swine flu, according to the county Health Department.
“This is presenting as regular flu and it is treated as regular flu,” Feuerherm said.
But health officials and physicians are taking the virus seriously because it is a new virus with no vaccination, and people have no immunity to it, she said.
“With any new virus, it could mutate,” Feuerherm said.
She said it could pose a higher risk to people who have compromised immune systems, emphysema or other chronic illnesses, because health officials do not know how they will react to it.
“Until we can define the virus and see how people respond to treatment, it’s the unknown,” Feuerherm said.
It is one of the first viruses that has spread from animals to people and then to other people.
David Evelyn, medical director at Cayuga Medical Center, said the Ithaca hospital is also preparing for the virus spreading.
“I think that if this strain of swine flu is fairly contagious from person to person it will eventually make its way to Tompkins County,” he said.
Evelyn said health officials are not sure why the virus has been deadly in Mexico but not in the United States. He said it is possible that the virus has mutated since people contracted it in Mexico and that people in in this country have a less harmful strain. It is also possible that people in this country have some level of immunity to it, he said.
The state Health Department has set up a telephone call center to answer questions from the public about swine flu at 1-800-808-1987.
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