By Jamey Dunn
While Illinois has no confirmed cases of swine flu yet, health officials said today the virus eventually will reach the state and that they are prepared for it.
Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a Statehouse press conference, “We fully expect to see confirmed cases within Illinois state at some point and time.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last reported 40 confirmed cases in the nation. Seven people who got tested in Illinois this past weekend were cleared. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, no pigs in the United States have tested positive for the virus.
Illinois already has an emergency plan for serious communicable diseases. Arnold said the department created a virus pandemic plan a few years ago when bird flu became a threat. “People are actually in place already and know what their jobs are,” he said. Arnold added that his agency is constantly monitoring the situation.
The symptoms of swine flu resemble the common flu but typically are more intense. They can include fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, headache, fatigue and lower back pain. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are less common symptoms.
Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said anyone who has debilitating symptoms, including difficulty breathing and severe vomiting, should go to a family physician or hospital for testing. He also said that people whose symptoms start to improve and then take a turn for the worse should seek medical attention. The elderly, children younger than 18, and individuals with respiratory illnesses or weakened immune systems are especially at risk.
Arnold said that there are two types of standard seasonal flu viruses going around, so people who get sick should not immediately assume it is swine flu. He said that if people have mild flu symptoms, they should treat them the way they would normally treat flu at home and only go to the doctor if that doesn’t work.
Velasquez added that anyone who feels sick after recently traveling to an area with confirmed cases of swine flu should seek medical attention. The incubation period for the flu averages three to five days. If travelers do not get sick after seven days, they shouldn’t worry about being infected.
Both Arnold and Velasquez said that their agencies are taking the threat seriously and coordinating their efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state agencies and local health departments.
Arnold said that because no cases of swine flu had yet been diagnosed in Illinois, agencies should take the time to asses their plans and ensure they are ready when and if the swine flu comes to Illinois. He also called on citizens to avoid panic. “We always take our own pulse first. You know, take a deep breath. This is something that we will get through. We have an incredible team of people, who are working on this every day —every minute of every day. We feel very well prepared.”
Updated information about swine flu and tips to stay healthy can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.