State health officials are monitoring closely
The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced today that in response to reported cases of swine influenza in other parts of the country the state is participating in a national effort to be prepared in the event the situation worsens.
As a precautionary measure, a portion of Montana’s allotment of antiviral medication and personal protective equipment from the national stockpile will be moved to storage in the state. Other states have taken similar steps. “This is a situation where we need to be prepared in the event this medication or equipment is needed in the immediate future,” said DPHHS state medical officer Dr. Steve Helgerson.
As of Monday, state health officials confirm no cases of swine influenza have been identified in Montana.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 40 cases of swine influenza infection have been confirmed in five different states including California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas. Only one of the United States patients needed to be hospitalized.
In addition, several cases have been identified in Canada, and there are an undetermined number of cases, some who have died, in Mexico.
Health officials are working closely with the physicians throughout the state to identify influenza-like illness. “We are continuing influenza surveillance and, especially since seasonal influenza is waning, we are asking doctors who see patients with influenza-like symptoms, to collect a specimen and send it to the DPHHS laboratory for testing,” Helgerson said.
Specimens collected will undergo testing at the state Public Health Laboratory in Helena for certain known, or ‘typeable’, influenza strains. However, if the test results show an unknown strain, then the specimen would be sent to the CDC for further testing to determine whether or not it is swine influenza.
“The DPHHS state laboratory will play an important role in the process,” Helgerson said. “We are monitoring the situation very closely.”
Infection with the current swine influenza virus is being passed from person to person. In the past swine influenza viruses have been transmitted from pigs to humans, but the viruses are not spread by food.
Helgerson said no vaccine is yet available to protect against this infection. However, the same precautions recommended to help limit the spread of seasonal influenza also apply to the swine influenza, including:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
- If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
The symptoms of swine influenza are the same as the symptoms of seasonal influenza in humans and include: Fever greater that 100 degrees F, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, chills, headache and body aches, and fatigue. Some of the U.S. cases have also reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine influenza.
Severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine influenza infection outside the U.S. Like seasonal influenza, swine influenza may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
For more information visit:
DPHHS or The Center for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC Website