Swine Flu Confirmed in Kansas

By: Abby Barnett Email
By: Abby Barnett Email

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The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) announced today that two cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Kansas involving two adults residing in the same household in Dickinson County. Neither of the patients was hospitalized - one is still ill and being treated, and one is recovering.

One of the patients had recently traveled to Mexico, flying in and out of Wichita. Both persons work in Saline County and became ill with the same unique (H1N1) strain of swine flu that has been identified in Mexico, California and Texas.

"It's not yet known whether this will become the next flu pandemic," stated Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of the KDHE Division of Health. "We are working closely with health agencies at all levels and are continuing to monitor these cases. We are taking this situation very seriously."

KDHE and the Dickinson County Health Department are investigating the sources of exposure, and efforts are being coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Individuals who have been in contact with the patients are being interviewed and tested. Local health departments and hospitals in Kansas are being continuously updated and provided with information about the swine flu virus.

In accordance with the Kansas Response Plan, KDHE is also monitoring and instituting recommendations from CDC for any additional influenza disease surveillance activities, reviewing plans to further enhance those activities, and advising health care providers to use rapid detection tests for persons who have symptoms consistent with swine flu, especially if they have recently been in Mexico, and taking other steps under the plan.

The symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include:

· Fever greater than 100 degrees
· Body aches
· Coughing
· Sore throat
· Respiratory congestion
· In some cases, diarrhea and vomiting

Dr. Mag Butros, Via Christie St. Francis Director of Emergency Services said, "The swine flu is similar to other influenza-A strains... 99% of people will never even know they're infected."

If severe symptoms persist, it's recommended you contact your primary physician, who will determine whether testing or treatment is needed. There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. As with any influenza virus, individuals are encouraged to take the following steps to reduce spread:

· Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to get rid of most germs and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

· Stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading illness to co-workers and friends.

· Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and properly dispose of used tissues.

· Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate rest and exercise.

The KDHE Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology received a report of unusual flu-like illness from Dickinson County on Friday afternoon. Respiratory specimens were collected from both patients and received by KDHE later on Friday evening.

At about 2 a.m. Saturday, the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories at KDHE reported preliminary results that were positive for influenza A viruses. Between about 2:30 and 3 a.m., KDHE notified the Dickinson County Health Department of those preliminary results, which notified the attending physician.

Around that same time, KDHE obtained the use of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' plane to safely and securely transport the samples as rapidly as possible to the CDC labs in Atlanta for confirmatory analysis to determine if the viruses were of the (H1N1) strain. A staff member with the KDHE Center for Public Health Preparedness handed the samples to a CDC representative at about 6:10 a.m. on Saturday, and the samples reached the labs at about 6:30 a.m. KDHE convened staff in its Department Operations Center at 10 a.m. Saturday, and was notified by CDC of the confirmatory results at 2:30 p.m.

Prior to the recent outbreak in Mexico and the U.S., since 2005 twelve cases of human infection with swine influenza had been reported to CDC. Swine flu infections in humans are rare, but are related to close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig production barns and livestock exhibits at fairs. Neither of the current patients in Kansas reported having contact with pigs.

For more information and updates, please visit the KDHE website by clicking on the link below this article.

The KDHE has released the "6 Things Every Kansan Should Know About Swine Flu."

The KDHE release says:
"As of today, here is what we know:

1. This is a new virus, never before recognized in the United States or anywhere in the world. The new virus contains genetic pieces from flu viruses that infect pigs, birds and humans. It appears able to spread among humans like the familiar human flu viruses that circulate in our communities every winter. Because this virus is new, we believe that no one has natural immunity against it. Immunization with the seasonal flu vaccine is not likely to offer protection.

2. Disease caused by the swine flu virus appears to be mild so far. Among the confirmed cases in the United States, only one has required hospitalization. All have recovered, or are now showing signs of recovery. The ability of the virus to cause serious disease may change over time, or it may infect people who are less able to resist it effectively. There are reports of deaths associated with swine flu infections in Mexico.

3. The disease is present in Kansas. As of today, we are aware of two cases of swine flu in our state. One case followed a trip to Mexico. The other resulted from household contact with the returning traveler. State and local public health staff are currently working hard to identify additional cases and provide supporting laboratory work to characterize the extent of the outbreak in Kansas.

4. Swine flu is treatable. While the new virus is resistant to certain anti-viral medications, at the moment it remains sensitive to others. To be maximally effective in shortening the length and severity of illness, these medications should be prescribed by a physician early in the course of infection. As always, rest at home and drinking ample fluids is also essential for a complete recovery.

5. Swine flu is preventable. While there is no vaccine that specifically protects against the new virus, everyday steps that prevent the spread of germs are very effective in reducing the risk of catching this disease. These include washing your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, staying at least six feet away from people who are coughing and sneezing, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and plenty of rest and exercise. Those who develop flu symptoms must stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible for a period of seven days from the onset of illness.

6. We can beat this. Your state and local public health professionals, together with Kansas health care providers, have been preparing and training for the arrival of a new flu virus in our communities for years. Working with colleagues at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we will monitor the activity of this new infectious agent and take all the necessary steps to curtail its spread. Your role in this is critical: to remain informed, to consult your health care provider if you become ill, and to follow the advice you receive on ways to protect your community. We will continue to update the KDHE web site (www.kdheks.gov) and encourage you to use it as a resource for swine flu information. Thank you all for your interest and support."

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