HUDSON—The Columbia County Department of Health said Monday that, in response to instructions from the state Department of Health, it has increased surveillance for possible cases of the new swine flu influenza A (H1N1). This is in addition to tracking cases of seasonal flu already reported in the county.
County Public Health Director Nancy Winch said in a release that her department is using a plan already in place, which includes “appropriate protocols, education and awareness about the swine flu” that are used by county health providers, schools, daycare facilities, first responders, county department heads , community services and agencies.
New York was one of five states in the U.S. that reported confirmed cases of the new strain of flu virus as of Monday. The cases in New York were linked to students and their families at a private school in New York City after the students returned from a springtime trip to Mexico. The cases reported in the U.S. have, to date, been classified by health officials as relatively mild, with no deaths reported. In Mexico, where the outbreak has become more severe, many more cases have been reported, and 149 deaths were attributed to the illness as of Monday afternoon.
A county health department spokeswoman said there were no reported cases of swine flu in the county as of Monday.
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness—pneumonia and respiratory failure—have been reported with swine flu infection in people.
Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions. The health department encourages people to call their primary care physician first if they experience any of the symptoms.
The Columbia County Health Department also reminded people that to help prevent the spread of flu they should take the following steps:
•Wash your hands often
•Avoid close contact with people who are sick
•If possible, stay home from work or school when you are sick
•Cover your cough or sneeze
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
A toll-free telephone hotline for swine flu information has been set up at the state Department of Health at 1-800-808-1987. More information can be found at the state health department’s website, www.nyhealth.gov, at the website of the federal Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov, at the World Health Organization site, www.who.int, and at the Columbia county website, www.columbiacountyny.com.