LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - There is a lot of fear and confusion about the swine flu now that some are calling it a public health emergency. The Department of Homeland Security has also issued warnings about traveling to Mexico.
On Friday, we told you there were two confirmed cases in South Texas. As of Monday, there are also four cases in Dallas County. In fact, the Richardson School District closed Canyon Creek Elementary School Monday because of one of those cases there.
All this, because the World Health Organization elevated the world's pandemic level to phase four on Monday using a scale of 1 to 6. President Obama said, "Today we are closely monitoring cases of swine flu in the United States. This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert, but it is not a cause for alarm."
The biggest concern is in Mexico where the swine flu has killed 149 people and infected more than 2000. However, all the cases in the US have been mild. So far, there are 44 cases of swine flu in the US, with more than half at a school in New York where students just returned from a trip to Cancun, Mexico.
Becky Brawley with the Lubbock Health Department was emphatic when she said Monday, "We don't have swine flu influenza in Lubbock."
Here at home, the Lubbock Health Department says it is monitoring flu cases very carefully, and area hospitals are already making plans to be prepared, just in case. "We're participating in daily conference calls with health officials around the state, sharing information about what we're seeing. We're also increasing surveillance with our own staff," said Greg Bruce, Vice President of University Medical Center.
So what are the symptoms? It can be a little different than the seasonal flu symptoms. Normally, patients get fever, cough, fatigue, aches and a loss of appetite. With the swine flu, they may also get nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
So why are people calling this a pandemic? Pandemic is when an epidemic spreads to multiple countries. So, by definition, the word pandemic fits for the swine flu, but at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, epidemiologist Dr. Ron Warner says that instead of becoming fearful, people should remember the SARS epidemic in China in 2003. He reminds us, "It burned out and nobody's ever heard from it since." In other words, no one has died from this new round of swine flu in the US where we have modern medicine and health officials taking every precaution early to control the virus. So, there is no reason to panic.
The name swine flu is actually odd because this flu has elements from pigs, birds and even humans and can be passed from either. The good news is no pig has been found ill here. Also, you can't get the swine flu by eating or handling pork.
All health officials agree there is something everyone can do to prevent the spread of swine flu - good hygiene. Frequent hand washing is our best protection.