The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has issued an alert to physicians to be on the watch for A/HIN1 (swine Flu) virus in humans.
While no cases have been identified in Arkansas as of Monday, 40 cases of swine flu had been confirmed April 26 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. The confirmed cases are in California (7), Texas (2), New York City (28), Ohio (1) and Kansas (2). All have recovered. There are an undetermined number of cases in Mexico with deaths reported.
"The Arkansas Department of Health is on alert," said Dr. William Mason, branch chief, Preparedness and Response. "We have activated our Emergency Operations Center and are working with state and federal officials to monitor the situation. We are telling doctors that if they see patients with febrile influenza-like illness, they should collect a specimen for testing. We want Arkansas to know that at this time, we don't have confirmed swine flu in our state. However, we are concerned about what is happening in our neighboring state of Texas and elsewhere across the country. The illness that we are seeing in the United States currently is not severe. All ill persons have recovered. There is the possibility that we will see severe illness in the future and we want Arkansans to be prepared."
Mason provided these recommendations for the public: As always, people with respiratory illness should stay home from work or school to avoid spreading infections, including influenza, to others in the community; Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill; Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; Wash hands frequently to lessen the spread of respiratory illness.
The symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to the symptoms of seasonal influenza and include: Fever greater than 100 degrees, coughing, sore throat, chills, headache and body aches, fatigue, respiratory congestion and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting. People experiencing these symptoms should stay home.
Seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know is having any of the following warnings discussed below.
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include: Fast breathing or trouble breathing; Bluish color; Not drinking enough fluids; Not waking up or not interacting; Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held; Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough; Fever with a rash.
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical situation include: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; Sudden dizziness; Confusion; Sever or persistent vomiting.
People with swine flu who are cared for at home should: Check with their health care provider about any special care they might need if they are pregnant or have a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or emphysema; Check with their health care provider about whether they should take antiviral medications; stay home for 7 days after the start of illness and fever is gone; Get plenty of rest; Drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from being dehydrated; Cover coughs and sneezes. Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often and especially after using tissues and after coughing or sneezing into hands; Avoid close contact with others -- do not go to work or school while ill; Be watchful for emergency warning signs that might indicate you need to seek medical attention.
Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food and a person cannot get swine influenza from eating pork products. The infection appears to spread from person to person. Drugs called antivirals can reduce the severity of illness, if taken within 48 hours after symptoms begin. Antivirals are not to be confused with flu vaccinations. Influenza vaccinations prevent a person from contracting the disease. Antivirals help treat people that become sick.
The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else's mouth or nose) before washing their hands.
For more information, go to www. healthyarkansas.com or www.cdc.gov. The Health Department will provide updates as they become necessary.