By Janet Jacobs

Daily Sun



Health and emergency experts from across Texas participated in a conference call Wednesday to get ready for a possible swine flu outbreak.

Dr. Kent Rogers, director of the Corsicana/Navarro County Health District, participated in the call, and said it’s a matter of preparing for the worst, even though no cases in Navarro County have been diagnosed.

“We’re thinking that the best thing for this area, this county, is to assume that something could develop which would require lots of screenings for flu and treatments that were larger than private doctors or the emergency room could manage,” Rogers explained.

Right now, there is no reason to panic, because the flu hasn’t spread that far in the United States, he pointed out.

“Obviously, we need to prepare for the worst,” Rogers said. “That’s what we were talking about today.”

Diagnosing the swine flu, also called the North American Influenza, is difficult because quick kits can tell whether someone has flu, but not if it’s that particular strain. Any positive flu results are then sent to a lab in Fort Worth, and suspected cases have to be referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.

“So, now we’re talking days,” Rogers said. “Any community is going to have to make decisions on cases unconfirmed for swine flu. Then, you have to make decisions about barring people from nursing homes, closing schools or canceling public meetings. You can’t do that unless you have pretty strong evidence it would be helpful and not interrupt daily life.”

Coordinating between the state, school districts, county, and cities is the purpose for the planning meetings, Rogers said.

Fortunately, health officials do have some effective weapons in the arsenal — one drug will accelerate recovery from flu, and another can help prevent it in people who have been exposed but who aren’t sick yet.

“Right now, we need to deal with people who don’t have a private physician and who use the emergency room for non-emergencies,” Rogers said. One solution could involve creating an alternative site for diagnosing those people, but that’s not likely unless the situation gets worse.

The fuss over swine flu is partly because it’s not covered by the annual flu shots. Also, experts aren’t sure of how deadly it is, or how easily it’s spread from person to person, Rogers said.

“I think our biggest concern is that it can be a problem, and there’s an underlying concern that because it seems to be new that some of the intrinsic immunity you and I have to the flu may not be there,” he said. “So people who normally wouldn’t die, might, and again, that’s a might.”

“We’re preparing for the worst, the worst being that it has a high mortality rate, and it’s easily transmitted.”

Rogers’ advice in the meantime is to not hoard Tamiflu, a medication that can alleviate the flu, so people who need it can get it easily. Also, avoid people who are ill, or sneezing on others, and wash hands frequently.

What would trigger a public health reaction is if several cases popped up in any Navarro County towns, he said.

“Of course, we can do a better job if we can diagnose it early,” he said. “People are going to want freedom of movement, so we need a strategy that will work, which is rapid diagnosis and preventative therapy.”

“That’s the one break we have on this, is our drugs seem to work on this swine flu virus, thank goodness.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jacobs@corsicanadailysun.com

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