The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is reporting that there are no confirmed cases or probable cases of swine flu in Arkansas. According to William Mason, M.D., Preparedness and Response Branch chief, all influenza tests to date that have come to the Public Health laboratory have been identified and are not swine flu.
"We are seeing a growing volume of samples from all parts of the state, as physicians, hospitals, clinics and our own local health units continue to test for swine flu in Arkansas," Mason said. "We are convinced that we will see swine flu here in time, and we want to try to slow the spread of the illness if we can."
Mason said, "We do expect that we will see some cases, and possibly some hospitalizations from this outbreak. It is too early to predict how this will all play out."
Because this is a new virus CDC has said that most people will not have immunity to it and illness may be more severe and widespread as a result.
Samples that are received at the ADH Public Health Laboratory are tested to determine whether or not they can be identified as a known human flu or other illness. If the sample is identified as a type F influenza that is not known, ADH will classify that sample as a probable case of swine flu and send it to the CDC for confirmation.
May 1 the CDC began distributing a diagnostic test to public health laboratories across the nation that will allow faster identification of the new influenza A/H1N1 virus in the ADH Public Health Laboratory. This will shorten the time between testing a suspected case here in Arkansas and confirmation that the case is actually the H1N1 virus, which will allow faster response to protect the public.
The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) are working very closely with the ADH to establish clear plans for a response that will help slow the spread of illness in the state when the first cases are reported. If the first cases are identified in schools, plans call for closing individual schools with the first cases for 14 consecutive days, according to new guidelines with the CDC on May 2. Other events and activities for the school would also be postponed or cancelled and students would be asked to stay home until a decision is made about reopening.
The ADH is seeing a surge of patients in emergency rooms and doctor's offices acrosss the state and Mason urges employers, parents and others to call a doctor before making an unnecessary trip. Mason said, "Most cases we have seen in this country have been very mild and few hospitalizations have been required. If you or someone you have concern for is ill with the symptoms that have been associated with the virus, we are asking that you call your doctor or local health unit for advice before getting out."
Friday, the state received the first shipment of additional antiviral drugs (Tamiflu) from the National Strategic Stockpile. When the remainder arrive over the weekend, the state will have 391,0000 courses of treatment for flu symptoms at hand.
"Arkansas is taking a very aggressive stance in its response to the news that the threat of a pandemic is imminent," Mason said.
The ADH Emergency Operations Center has taken a number of steps in recent days:
* Monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for recommendations and guidance.
* Developing a checklist for receipt of first confirmed case.
* Arranging for computer access for workers who must stay home, so that the ADH will remain fully functional.
* Reviewing ADH activities for possible postponement.
* Engaging in conference calls to municipal, county, state and national partners.
* Working closely with infectious disease physicians.
* Developing guidance for Local Health Units in regard to the use of masks, hand washing techniques, hand sanitizer, etc.
* Planning for at risk populations.
* Responding to media requests.
* Sending information to DHS to send to long-term care facilities and day cares.
* Working with the Arkansas Hospitals Association to provide information to hospitals.
* Continuing to run lab tests on specimens.
* Providing public education through local health units and Hometown Health Improvement.
* Staffing and responding to public calls in the ADH Call Center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection is not recommending travel restrictions to other states in the U.S. where cases have been identified, but is suggesting that precautionary personal protection methods be followed.
Currently there are no disease in swine. Swine influenza cannot be transmitted in food. Properly cooked pork and pork products are safe to eat. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees kills bacteria and viruses.
The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission is encouraging Arkansas pork producers to continue their normal surveillance.
Currently, there is not enough information to fully assess the health implications of this novel strain of flu virus for animals. There is no evidence at this time that swine in the United States are infected with this flu virus strain. It is very unlikely that dogs, cats or horses would become infected with this virus, it may be possible for a pet monkey (non-human primate) and for pet swine to become infected with this new virus from a human.
CDC is reporting 109 human infections with this influenza A (H1N1) virus of swine origin in the United States. That number is up from the reported 91 cases on April 30. This list of numbers of people who are confirmed cases is updated daily at 11 a.m. at www.cdc.gov/swineflu.
Human infections with this new virus have been confirmed in 11 states so far.
April 30, the CDC reported the nation's first death from this outbreak in the state of Texas in a 22-month old child.
The CDC has recommended that people not purchase antiviral drugs like Tamiflu unless they actually have symptoms and have been prescribe to take these drugs by their physician. There is no benefit from using antiviral drugs unless you are actually ill with the flu. Antiviral drugs do not prevent disease and stockpiling drugs could result in a shortage that would keep the drugs from helping people who need them.