33 Tested in Monogalia County for Swine Flu

by Nicole Bowman

There have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Monongalia County or West Virginia but local health officials are preparing in case the disease spreads to the area.

Amy Johns, WVU Hospitals spokeswoman, said the labs at WVU took a total of 33 swab tests for swine flu in the past two days 23 were taken Wednesday and 10 were taken Thursday before press time.

Those labs test for WVU Hospitals, the clinic at the Physicians Office Center, the Family Medicine Center, the hospital emergency department and WVU Urgent Care, she said.

The WVU Cheat Lake Physicians Office took two tests Wednesday and three tests Thursday, Johns said.

None of the tests came back positive, she said, but if they had, the tests would have been sent to the state health department in Charleston.

Bob Curtis, Monongalia General Hospital emergency department medical director, said no one has come to Mon General to be tested for the virus.

The hospital is prepared if there is a confirmed case in the area, though. Curtis said the hospital had a multidiscplinary committee meeting, which looked at how staff would handle an initial patient.

Community education issues, supply, readiness, staff education and protection of the facility to avoid contamination were also discussed at the meeting, he said.

Be educated

The most important part of preparation is education, officials said, and many have set up Web sites or hotlines to keep the public up-to-date on the number of cases across the country, and to provide information on what symptoms to look for and to offer prevention tips.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 109 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States: Arizona, California, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas have confirmed cases. One person, in Texas, died from the disease.

Shaunda Rauch, interim public health educator for the Mon County Health Department, said swine flu cases could crop up in West Virginia and Mon County, and people shouldn’t be shocked when they do.

The disease travels quickly, Rauch said, and Mon County has “such a transient population”, especially because it is home to WVU and the Morgantown Municipal Airport.

“We don’t want people to be scared,” she said. “This is not a scare tactic. We want people to be aware so they can take care of themselves.”

The health department has set up a “Swine Flu Hotline,” and people can call the hotline to get up-todate information about the disease.

Rauch said prevention of the disease is key, and the health department is working to educate the public about what they can do to prevent the spread of swine flu, with the hotline, pamphlets and other public service announcements.

“We are facing a rapidly evolving/changing situation with swine influenza,” she said. “Public Health’s focus is to slow the spread of the disease and to reduce the impact of the epidemic. Our pandemic planning and educational efforts over the past several years have aided us greatly in preparing to respond to the swine flu threat, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“Personal preparedness and precautionary efforts on the part of our community is an integral part of our success in protecting ourselves from not only swine influenza, but any disease that could threaten Mon County.”

Johns said WVU Hospitals created a Web site earlier this week so it could provide the public with the most up-to-date information on swine flu. The Web site has current counts on confirmed cases of the virus nationwide, as well as press releases and prevention information.

“We’re doing as much as we can to get the word out there,” she said. “We want to educate people on how to stay safe and healthy.”

Case studies

The Mon County Health Department is also reviewing all case reports for people showing symptoms of swine flu across the nation and internationally, Rauch said, to help them be better prepared to identify the disease if it shows up locally.

The health department is also working with other local agencies to put a plan of action in place if the swine flu has a big impact on the area, Rauch said.

For example, if mass inoculations would need to be given, the health department would need to work with the area’s other health care providers, schools, large employers and first responders in order to do so as efficiently as possible, she said.

Preparing for something such as mass inoculations would require an inventory of supplies and materials needed, Rauch said, from the inoculations down to the rubber gloves the health care staff would wear while giving them.

The health department is researching possible scenarios and what practices could be implemented in those scenarios, she said.

City prepares

During Morgantown City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday, City Manager Dan Boroff said the swine flu is an example of how disaster planning can be done in phases. The discussion was part of an overview of disaster planning in general.

“It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion,” he said. “You can see how the phases are being executed. Each phase indicates how we are dealing with the nature of the threat.”

Major Ron Justice said about a year ago, about 200 people from throughout the county participated in disaster training for the avian flu.

He said this time, there is a lot more information being disseminated from the top levels of government down to the city level.

“We get federal-level updates sometimes two times a day, if not daily,” he said. “There’s a lot more communication. And it’s accurate information, so there’s no speculation or rumors.”

Other health care providers

Jan Palmer, WVU’s director of student health services, said he hasn’t really seen any increase in the number of people with flu-like symptoms.

“A lot of people are concerned and they’re asking questions,” he said. “They’re worried about ‘what if’ and we’re working to educate them.”

Erich Lipphardt, vice president of development and marketing for MedExpress, said the Morgantown MedExpress clinic hasn’t really seen too many patients coming in with flu symptoms.

“There’s not much of a stir,” he said.

One patient did come in at the request of the patient’s employer to be tested for swine flu, Lipphardt said, but after the patient was examined, a physician determined the patient did not need the test.

MedExpress is “following standard protocol” when it comes to treating patients with flu-like symptoms, he said, and the clinic encourages patients to be seen by a physician if they are experiencing any of those symptoms.

Gig Howell, a radiologic technologist with Cheat Lake Urgent Care, said the clinic hasn’t really seen any patients with “true flu symptoms” but a couple of patients have asked about swine flu.

- Pharmacy Choice

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