Mississippi still free of swine flu

Published 1:08 am Sunday, May 3, 2009

As of Friday, 19 states and 149 confirmed cases were reported in the United States, on Saturday those numbers climbed to 21 states and 160 cases. Mississippi still is reporting no cases of the swine flu.

Mississippi State Department of Health officer Dr. Ed Thompson expects a case to occur in Mississippi at some point, but as of when he can not say. For a case not to occur here would be highly unusual, considering no human being, except those who have already contracted and overcame this new strain, have antibodies to fight it.

As in previous press conferences earlier in the week, Thompson said this strain is for the most part no different than the seasonal strain, except there’s no vaccine. In the next six months Thompson expects to see a vaccine, but it would be another couple months before it’s produced and distributed.

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For the time being, keeping free of swine flu prevention through hygiene is the way to avoid the disease, Thompson said. Currently, the death rate for this strain is about one percent, and if contracted, it mostly causes mild flu like symptoms.

The symptoms recorded with this strain are typical of any other flu, fever of 100 degrees or more, sore throat and coughing, said Dr. James Riser of Picayune. If anyone experiences these symptoms, that person is advised to call hisor her doctor.

A typical attack rate, which is the rate at which exposed people contract a flu virus, is about 30 percent. Thompson said without a vaccine and previous human exposure this strain will have a higher attack rate.

Riser said he speculates that this strain hits the younger population since they have had less exposure to flu viruses. Thompson said so far the evidence currently shows that the reason younger people appear to be getting the virus more so than older people is due to the popularity of college students visiting Mexico. Another large case study involves high school students in New York, who were exposed. Those factors have skewed the available information to make it appear that the younger population is the primary victim of the virus, Thompson said.

If this strain does become a pandemic, meaning a majority of the world’s countries are affected by the virus, then Mississippi is prepared as the arrw can be. However no amount of preparation will ensure 100 percent readiness.

“It is a virus, a product of Mother Nature. She’s smarter than we are. We’re never going to outsmart her,” Thompson said.

Eating pork products and handling pork meat is still completely safe, however there is a slight chance of contacting the virus from close contact with a live pig, Thompson said.

School closures in Mississippi are not being considered at this time since there are no confirmed cases in the state, said State Superintendent of Education for Mississippi Dr. Hank Bounds. If there is a single case found in a school, then that school close, Thompson said. That closure would only be recommended and if the Department of Education decides to suggest it, theHealth Department saysit should be for 14 days, Thompson said.

Riser said screening for swine flu involves checking people who report a fever of 100 degrees or more, cough and sore throat. Those patients are tested for Type A flu. If it’s detected, then a travel history is collected from the patient. That information, along with the sample, is sent to the Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control. People who suspect they may have the flu are asked to call before going to a doctor’s office.

Of the patients coming into his office, Riser has only seen four cases of Type B influenza in the past month. Swine flu is a Type A influenza virus.