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For Immediate Release
April 26, 2009

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Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or cell (402) 416-9388
Kathie Osterman, Communications and Legislative Services (420) 471-9313 or cell (402) 326-4277

Physicians and Public Urged to be on Watch for Swine Flu


Lincoln—The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services issued an alert Saturday to physicians to be on the watch for swine influenza in humans.

While no cases have been identified in Nebraska at this time, as of Saturday, eleven cases of swine flu had been confirmed in the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. The confirmed cases are in California, Texas and Kansas, with suspect cases in New York. There are an undetermined number of cases in Mexico reaching into the hundreds.

“This is a situation where we must all be on the alert,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the DHHS Division of Public Health. “We have ramped up surveillance and we’re telling doctors that since the flu season is waning, if they see patients with a high fever and a cough or sore throat, they should collect a specimen for testing.”

Dr. Schaefer said DHHS has a response plan and has put it into play. “Increasing surveillance, alerting doctors and working with the local health departments are all part of the plan,” she said.

Schaefer provided these recommendations:

    • 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.
    • People experiencing cough, fever and fatigue, possibly along with diarrhea and vomiting, should contact their physician.

Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food and a person cannot get swine influenza from eating pork products. The infections appear to spread from person to person. Drugs called antivirals can reduce the consequences of contracting the flu, if taken early.

Dr. Schaefer said Nebraska is receiving frequent updates from the CDC, and is working with local health departments to monitor the situation and immediately follow up on any suspected cases. The CDC has created a Webpage with information at www.cdc.gov/swineflu .

“Public health is ready to respond to an outbreak if necessary,” Dr. Schaefer said. “We have plans in place for this kind of emergency.”

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