Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fauquier Health Adresses Threat of Swine Flu

The news on swine flu cases in Mexico, the U.S. and around the world changes hourly, it seems.

Although there is still much about the disease and its potentially dangerous ramifications that is unknown, Fauquier Health officials are taking a pro-active approach to swine flu cases that have surfaced in Mexico and in other states in the U.S. Rodger Baker, president and CEO of Fauquier Health, said “The hospital is working with federal authorities, the Virginia Health Department (Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District) and local physicians to ensure that we are receiving the most up-to-date information and response guidelines. We also are working diligently with local and state public-health authorities to coordinate our approach, report suspected cases, perform specific diagnostic tests (when indicated), and report updated information as it becomes available.

“As a region and at our hospital we have plans that address many of the issues related to a communicable infectious disease. These plans include access to assets that can be mobilized should this event expand in scope, including access to the necessary medicines needed for treatment of influenza, and available stocks of personal protective equipment to protect our staff and our patients.”

Persons with swine flu are contagious for up to seven days after the onset of illness and possibly longer if they continue to have symptoms. Although there are some suspected cases of swine flu in Virginia, as of Thursday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases in the state.

The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that residents who have symptoms of the flu – fever with nasal congestion, sore throat, or cough – call their primary care doctor’s office to determine whether or not they should be seen. Those whose symptoms are mild should stay home from work or school to avoid infecting anyone else.

According to the CDC, those who develop influenza-like illness should be strongly encouraged to stay at home for seven days after the onset of illness, or at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer.

The CDC recommends that those who are in contact with a person who has symptoms consistent with swine influenza should: “remain home at the earliest sign of illness; minimize contact in the community to the extent possible; designate a single household family member as the ill person’s caregiver to minimize interactions with asymptomatic persons.”

Mild symptoms do not necessarily require medication. So far, most of the incidents in the U.S. have been classified as mild.

Dr. Tam Ly, of Fauquier Health Infectious Diseases, emphasized that, “Anyone who is experiencing severe symptoms – difficulty breathing, a fever higher than 100.4 degrees, or is not able to drink fluids -- particularly those who have visited Mexico in the last week or have been in contact with someone who has, may be instructed by their primary care doctor to go to the Fauquier Hospital Emergency Department. Fauquier Hospital will work with the local Virginia Department of Health to submit appropriate viral specimens to the state laboratory for testing.”

The ED staff will place potential flu patients in the ED’s negative air pressure rooms, which prevent the spread of contagions, and will take all possible infection-control precautions.

Baker said that visitors to Fauquier Hospital will see signs at entrances that ask them to refrain from visiting patients if they have nasal congestion, sore throat, cough or fever. If they do have any of these symptoms but need to come into the hospital, they will be asked to put on surgical masks as a precaution. Visitors will also be asked to wash their hands with a waterless hand sanitizer at the reception desks. Hand washing is the single most effective method to avoid the spread of infection. There is no vaccine available specifically for the swine flu.

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