OLYMPIA – Thurston County Public Health and Social Services officials are stepping up monitoring efforts in the wake of the international swine flu outbreak. Currently, there are no known human cases of swine influenza in Washington State . Thurston County Public Health is in close contact with the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the outbreak in parts of the United States , Canada , Spain and Mexico . The department is working closely with local health care providers to investigate cases of pneumonia and influenza to see if they are related to this new infection, especially in people who traveled to affected areas.
Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by a type A influenza virus. Viruses that cause swine flu do not normally infect humans, although rare human infections have occurred. The swine influenza virus that is being investigated now appears to be transmitted person-to-person. Human symptoms for this new type of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of regular human influenza that happens every year. Those symptoms include fever > 100º F, cough and sore throat. In addition, fatigue, lack of appetite, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have been reported.
The CDC has determined that the swine flu virus causing mild illness in some states is the same strain as the virus causing an outbreak of human respiratory illness among humans in Mexico . As of April 27th swine flu infections have been confirmed in five states: California , Kansas , New York , Texas and Ohio . No deaths due to this virus have been found in the United States . (See CDC website for current information www.cdc.gov/swineflu/) Cases have also been confirmed in Canada . Swine flu infections have been documented in Mexico , but it is not yet known if all of the fatal or hospitalized respiratory illness cases are actually due to this swine flu.
Although there are no known cases in Washington State , precautions should be taken to avoid transmitting respiratory illnesses. This new "swine flu virus" is transmitted person-to-person when people cough and sneeze, spreading germs through the air, or on to surfaces that others can come in contact with. Infection occurs when the virus gets into the airways and lungs.
As with any infectious disease that is spread through the human respiratory system, there are precautions people can take to avoid spreading or getting the swine flu including:
- Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throwing the tissue in the trash after use.
- Washing the hands often with soap and water, especially after a cough or sneeze. (Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective).
- Avoiding close contact with sick people.
- Staying home if ill and limiting contact with others to keep from infecting them.
- Not touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
It should be noted that people cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products.
The CDC has issued a travel health warning for Mexico stating that nonessential travel is not advised. The reason for this warning includes the concern that continued travel by U.S. travelers to Mexico presents a serious risk for further outbreaks of swine flu in the United States . For the five states where there have been swine influenza cases, a notice has been issued informing travelers that an outbreak of respiratory illness is occurring and that precautions should be taken. All travelers should follow the same precautionary measures that are recommended to protect against seasonal influenza – as listed above. For more information about CDC travel health notices go to wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/
If a person has recently traveled to Mexico or other affected areas and has symptoms of influenza such as fever > 100º F, cough, and sore throat, they should contact their health care provider to discuss symptoms and the possible need for antiviral treatment. The person should make sure to tell their travel history. There are effective medications to treat this new swine influenza virus.
Local swine flu information is available by calling 360-709-3080. Information can also be obtained by visiting the Thurston County Public Health web site at www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/