For now, common sense best in swine flu
By Patsy Nicosia and Jim Poole
Common sense is the best defense when it comes to swine flu.
That’s the advice coming down from everyone from Cobleskill Regional Hospital to the Department of Health when it comes to the outbreak that has everyone a little on edge.
Though swine flu has yet to appear upstate, so far 48 cases, 28 of them in New York City, have been confirmed.
“Because there is no vaccine available…the best defense is good hygiene,” said CRH’s Patricia Richards, the hospital’s disaster preparedness coordinator.
“As with an outbreak of seasonal flu, it’s simple things like hand-washing, staying home from school and work if you are sick, and not visiting hospitalized family members and friends that will prevent the spread of the disease.”
Roy Korn, CRH’s medical directorr, said even those experiencing typical flu symptoms—fever, coughing, nasal congestion, and swore throats—should be aware there are still no cases of swine flu in the area.
“These symptoms are not an emergency requiring a trip to the ER, but they may warrant a call to your doctor,” Dr. Korn said.
“However, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and have recently traveled to Mexico, New York City, or other affected areas, you should be sure to tell your doctor.”
Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School Superintendent Lynn Macan said they’ve posted a Q-& A-statement from the state Health Department on its website and school nurses are also in touch with the DOH.
“The biggest suggestion is wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands,” Ms. Macan said.
“We’re urging preventative measures that help to resist what isn’t an issue yet.”
SUNY Cobleskill’s Holly Cargill-Cramer said they’ve posted signs reminding students to wash their hands, stay home if they don’t feel well, and check in with the campus Wellness Center if they have any concerns.
Like all SUNY schools, she said, the college put a plan for dealing with potential pandemics in place a couple of years ago when concerns began surfacing over bird flu.
Ms. Cargill-Cramer said Monday the campus’s flu committee had a conference call with Bassett Hospital, Cooperstown to make sure they were doing everything they should and they’re also in contact with the local Health Department.
“There’s been no indication anything’s happening, but we want everyone here to be aware of the common sense steps they should be taking, no matter what the illness is,” she added.
Karen Miller, Schoharie County’s public information officer, said the county also has a plan in place for dealing with situations like this, and that includes staying in touch with state officials.
“It’s being considered an outbreak, not a pandemic, at this point,” she said.
Kathleen Strack, county public health director, said the county has made swine flu its priority.
“Staff members have been redirected to monitor the situation for the duration of the public health emergency,” she said.
The state Health Department has set up a toll-free number for residents with questions or concerns about swine flu, 1-800-808-1987.
The line will be open 24 hours a day.
Information is also available on the state’s website, www.nyhealth.gov.
Ms. Miller also suggested a source closer to home.
“If anyone has any questions, we’re suggesting they call their own physician,” she said.
All health departments, hospitals, and physicians have been notified to be on heightened awareness for respiratory illness.
On Saturday, the federal Department of Health and Human Services issued a nationwide public-health emergency declaration; on Sunday, Governor David Paterson activated the state’s health emergency plan.
According to state DOH, swine flu is caused by type A influenza viruses and anti-viral drugs are reported to be effective in treating it.
Simple disease-prevention steps include: washing your hands often with soap and water or using alcohol-based cleansers, avoiding people who are ill, staying home if you’re sick, using tissues when you cough or sneeze, keeping hands away from your face, cleaning shared space—phone, keyboard, steering wheels—more often, and avoiding sharing things like toothbrushes and towels.