Gov. Jay Nixon directs public health officials to prepare state for possible bout with new strain of swine flu

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday that Missouri health officials are taking significant steps to deal with a new strain of swine flu that has prompted federal officials to declare a nationwide health emergency.

The Governor said that while no case of swine flu had been confirmed in Missouri, state health officials and the medical community have been on high alert since Friday because of the contagious nature of the new flu virus. The Department of Health and Senior Services, headed by Director Margaret Donnelly, is the lead agency in coordinating the state's preparation for possible influenza cases.

Missouri officials have stockpiled enough antiviral medications to treat more than 600,000 cases of swine flu. Over the weekend, Gov. Nixon directed state health officials to request Missouri's share of federal medical supplies.

In response, federal officials are providing additional doses of medicine, three million surgical masks to limit the spread of the virus and three million enhanced medical masks for medical workers and others who may be repeatedly exposed. These supplies augment significant private stocks of antiviral medication and other medical supplies in Missouri.

"Missourians should know that people, plans and protections are in place to do everything possible to prevent the spread of swine flu in our state," Gov. Nixon said.

The virus, which is blamed for killing scores of people in Mexico, has now sickened people in five U.S. states - California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Kansas. Federal health officials have determined that the virus is susceptible to two antiviral medications.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is working closely with local public health agencies and medical facilities to increase detection of any cases of swine flu in the state. If cases are found, officials will take steps to limit the spread of the virus. The state is putting into effect plans and tapping into resources put into place as part of its pandemic influenza preparedness efforts.

But Gov. Nixon said all Missouri residents could take steps crucial to halting the spread of the flu.

"The public should know that we all have an important part to play," Gov. Nixon said. "There are very simple but effective measures we all can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from this virus, and I encourage everyone to join the effort to do just that."

The Governor said people can help limit the spread of swine flu by:

* Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

* Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash after using it.

* Trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

* Avoiding close contact with sick people.

* Staying home from work or school if you come down with the flu and limiting your contact with others to keep from infecting them.

The most up-to-date national information can be found at the CDC's swine flu Web site,

The State of Missouri and the Department of Health and Senior Services will update Missourians with more information as it becomes available.

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