No swine flu cases in Miss., but tests under way

Published 1:22 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Public health officials say there’s no confirmed swine flu cases in Mississippi, but they warn that it’s likely the disease will eventually make its way into the state.

State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson said Monday that officials have requested 75,000 additional dosages of Tamiflu from the national stockpile. He said the state already has 300,000 dosages of Tamiflu on hand. Tamiflu is not a cure for swine flu, but the strain has proven to be “sensitive” to the medication, he said.

Thompson also said the state is testing cultures from 10 patients, and if swine flu is suspected, the specimens will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.

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“In order to preserve Tamiflu in the system, we actually ask physicians to use it as they see fit depending on the condition of the patient,” he said.

Swine flu is suspected in up to 149 deaths in Mexico. So far, 40 cases — none fatal — have been confirmed in the United States.

“This is not the same swine flu of 20 or 30 years ago. It’s a new strain to which none of us has immunity,” Thompson said. “It’s no longer feasible to consider containing the outbreak of this disease.”

He said health officials can only work to “mitigate the severity” of the outbreak. He said a vaccine for swine flu could be several months away.

Symptoms of the virus include a high fever, sore throat, cough and body aches, said Dr. Mary Currier, the state epidemiologist.

Currier said surveillance for the virus has increased as physicians across the state have been asked to send lab tests on any patients who have a travel history to places where swine flu has been confirmed. Cases have been reported in Ohio, Texas, Kansas, California and New York.

Currier encouraged the public to practice good hygiene, including frequent handwashing. Thompson said anyone who has flu-like symptoms should contact a physician. He said anyone with a high fever should stay home from school or work.

Thompson said the public will be notified soon after the first swine flu case is confirmed in the state.