State officials closely monitoring situation
Swine flu not in Ripley County

Wanda English Burnett

As news of the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus spreads, state officials in Indiana say they are closely monitoring human cases.

While there are no cases of the swine flu in Ripley County, and no confirmed cases in Indiana as of press time, local officials are working with others to be ready at a moment’s notice, according to Pat Thomas, Ripley County Health Department Director.

“We’ve got a plan in place and are working with other agencies,” Thomas told the Osgood Journal on Monday. She said the local group has been participating in exercises for quite some time now, and feels they are ready to meet the challenge, should it arise. Ripley County Emergency Management Agency Director Wayne Peace is also working closely with Thomas and others.

Also referred to as the swine flu, this flu does not normally infect humans, according to information from the Indiana State Health Department (ISDH). It is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly causes outbreaks of flu in pigs. However, recently, there have been sporadic human infections, mostly in individuals who have direct exposure to pigs.

While state health officials say caution is key, they also note that the swine flu is not transmitted by food. “You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products,” according to information in a recent press release. They also say cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

Joe Wainscott, executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) noted, “It’s too early to be classified as a pandemic.” He went on to say, “Each of us can make a difference. Limiting contact with others can help slow the spread of illness. Together we can protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. In most instances of the flu, those suffering can be cared for at home. Be aware, plan ahead, and share with others what you have learned,” he advised.

“If you have milder symptoms of influenza, we advise you to stay home and contact your health care provider for advice,” said State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe M.D.
Dr. Monroe noted that there is not a vaccine to prevent the swine flu. She advised people 65-years of age and older with chronic diseases and immune deficiencies are at higher risk for severe complications.

Information from the ISDH and IDHS notes the symptoms of the swine flu is expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal flu and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people have reported a runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

What can be done to prevent the spread of the flu? Basic precautionary measures just as you would for a common cold, flu or any infectious disease should be followed. That includes:

• Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

While health officials do not know how easily the virus spreads, they do know it is contagious and is spreading from human to human.

While reports are that the situation is serious in Mexico with more than 1,000 sick and nearly 70 dead, US officials are saying there is less than twenty cases reported here and no deaths as of press time.

Indiana health officials are not taking any chances. They have an active force and will work closely with local officials if the need arises. The IDHS has already sent information to public safety professionals to take necessary precautions to safeguard their health as they interact with the public. This includes paramedics, EMTs, police officers, firefighters, and emergency management workers.

Thomas is working closely with other local and state agencies to monitor the situation. She noted she will release further information as it becomes available and advises people not to panic.

After a late conference Monday afternoon with officials, Thomas noted that additional information includes not giving aspirin to children suspected of having the flu. She also advised that agencies are not testing anyone who hasn’t been to Mexico within the past seven days. She concluded by saying that there have been no cases of the flu diagnosed in swine in Indiana as of press time.