|Tue, Sep 02, 2014 05:16 AM
County vigilant, and prepared, if swine flu strikes
May 06, 2009 | 08:42 AM
The Influenza A (H1N1)/ North American/Human virus, more commonly referred to as the swine flu, has the country on edge after reports of multiple deaths attributed to the viral strain in Mexico and one in the United States. More than 400 cases have been discovered in 36 states and nearly 1,500 cases worldwide.
Harrison County Heath Department Coordinator Tony Combs said the county is monitoring the situation and the breadth of the outbreak remains to be seen.
"We're preparing for the worst but hoping for the best," he said.
The county has received antivirals from the national stockpile, Combs said, which were sent to all states where a known case of the swine flu has been discovered.
He said the antivirals are stored in a secure location and can be used if needed.
A University of Notre Dame student in South Bend diagnosed with swine flu April 22 has since recovered. As of yesterday (Tuesday), another 14 cases have been confirmed in Indiana, causing at least two Indianapolis Public Schools to be shut down for one week.
Combs said he is working with the State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.
"We're preparing for whatever comes about," he said.
If a vaccine is found and distributed, Combs said the county has preparedness plans available to vaccinate the entire county in 48 hours. But, he said, it will be a long time before vaccine is available for the swine flu.
Combs said the best way to prevent the spread of this virus is to practice good hygiene by using alcohol-based hand cleaners and washing hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash after use; cough into your sleeve rather than hands if a tissue is not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Influenza is always a serious illness. Each year in the United States, seasonal influenza or flu-related causes results in, on average, an estimated 36,000 deaths.
State officials have set up a toll-free hotline, 1-877-826-0011, for questions on the virus. Calls can be made between 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Scammers play on fears
The flu outbreak has become so large criminals have taken the opportunity to create a flu kit scam.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller Friday issued a warning about a new scam related to the fear and concern of the swine flu.
Telephone solicitors reportedly have called Hoosiers in an effort to sell "mandatory swine flu kits," claiming the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are requiring its purchase.
Such claims are false and fraudulent. No level of government is requiring the purchase of a safety kit for the flu.
"Not only are these telephone solicitors cynically exploiting people's fears in order to commit fraud, but they also may be violating Indiana's telephone privacy laws," Zoeller said.
"Depending on who was contacted, this scam may violate Indiana's Do Not Call statute; and if an unauthorized prerecorded message is used, it would violate Indiana's Auto-Dialer statute as well. In either event, consumers who receive such calls should keep the number, if possible, so that our office can investigate."
If contacted by a solicitor, notify the Indiana Attorney General's Office at 1-800-382-5516 or online at www.indianaconsumer.com.