The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports the latest number of confirmed cases of Novel H1N1 (swine) flu at 723 in Mississippi with three deaths. Nationally, there have been 9,079 hospitalizations and 593 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
MSDH expects swine flu vaccine to be available locally by mid-October; it will be provided at all county health departments, participating private physicians’ offices, community health centers, some pharmacies and other clinics that will target priority groups for the swine flu vaccine. MSDH is working with the day care centers, Head Start programs, schools, colleges and universities throughout the state to ensure the availability of vaccine for all students. Priority groups for vaccination include those from six months to 24 years of age, those who are pregnant, caregivers of infants six months and younger, those 25-64 years old with chronic heart, lung (including asthma), kidney and liver problems, and those who are immunosuppressed, as well as health care and emergency service providers.
The MSDH confirms cases, meaning a submitted specimen tested positive for the Novel H1N1 (swine) strain in the state Public Health Laboratory. MSDH receives and tests specimens from patients seen by Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel providers (70 physicians’ offices and emergency departments across the state) – the same surveillance system used during seasonal flu – to monitor the presence of swine flu in Mississippi. It is not necessary for every person with flu-like illness to be tested for swine flu; treatment decisions are made based on the clinical signs and systems of the patient. The MSDH surveillance system shows that almost all of the influenza that is going around the state is the Novel H1N1 (swine) strain. Confirmed cases show a snapshot of how the illness is spreading in Mississippi but are not in any way indicative of the exact number of cases diagnosed.
The CDC does not recommend school closures as an effective way to prevent seasonal or swine flu in schools. MSDH is working closely with school officials to ensure that schools are taking action to prevent the spread of flu as much as possible including a focus on hygiene and hand-washing, regular cleaning of surfaces, and isolating ill children waiting to go home. Parents should not send sick children to school.
Basic prevention methods include washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into your sleeve, or coughing into a tissue followed by hand-washing, and avoiding close contact with those who are sick. If you are ill, stay home until you are well, unless you need to see a doctor, in which case call first to prevent possible transmission in the doctor’s waiting area.
According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary Currier, swine flu responds well to traditional anti-viral medications. Most people recover well without hospitalization. Swine flu is proving to be similar to the seasonal influenza strain in terms of duration and severity.
For more information on swine flu call the toll-free MSDH flu hotline at 1-877-222-9FLU. The hotline hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except state holidays. To receive updates on Twitter, visit the MSDH Novel H1N1 (swine) flu page to sign up as a follower.