Area Authorities Guard against Swine Flu
Posted: Wednesday, 6th May 2009 2:46AM
EAST TEXAS -- Authorities in the East Texas area are taking precautions as swine flu continues to spread worldwide.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health officials are continuing to investigate what's termed a highly probable case of H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, in Van Zandt County. Officials say a 52-year-old reported flu-like symptoms on April 25th and was seen by his physician, who performed a rapid flu test, on April 27th. The clinic staff treating the individual was given antivirals as a precaution. According to officials, after investigation by Northeast Texas Public Health District Nurse Epidemiologist Shawn Clifford, it was found that the case was isolated and that the necessary tests and precautions were taken. “The exposure to others was very limited, and the individual is feeling much better,” reports Mrs. Clifford.
Officials continue to await test results after learning a student at New Diana may have a case of swine flu. Officials say on the school’s web site that a preliminary test showed a probable case of swine flu. In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control, current state guidelines stipulate that school districts in which even one case occurs should be closed for one week. The New Diana school system will remain closed through May 11th. School officials say they can’t release the student’s name or what grade the student is in.
Officials in Angelina County have submitted 30 possible swine flu cases to a Tyler lab for identification. Any probable cases that turn up in the lab samples will then be sent to the Centers for Disease Control for further testing. Keith Wright, Lufkin’s assistant city manager and city emergency management coordinator told the Lufkin Daily News that the test results on the possible swine flu cases in East Texas could be weeks away because the labs are so backlogged.
Smith County Health Authority Dr. Jonathan MacClements says health workers are keeping an eye on things. He says any patients who visit emergency rooms or doctors' offices are getting screened, and the test is "quick and simple." MacClements adds that treatment for swine flu is available locally, and health officials are carefully monitoring how much Tamiflu is available. Relenza is the other treatment. Meantime, says MacClements, don't panic; see a doctor if you're running a fever, have aches and pains, or have been traveling recently, especially to Mexico; and practice good hygiene. He says that means following the sanitation guidelines presented by the CDC.
The Northeast Texas Public Health District (NETPHD) is conducting ongoing disease surveillance in partnership with the Texas Department of State Health Services, hospitals, physicians, and other local entities. All local physicians that have any questions or concerns may contact the NETPHD Public Health Preparedness Department at 903-595-1350. Go to the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/index.htm - http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/index.htm for more information.
LeTourneau University continues monitoring governmental warnings and remains in communication with local officials regarding swine flu. Commencement ceremonies slated for Saturday, May 2, in Longview proceeded as scheduled. However, commencement is not a requirement for students to receive their diplomas. School officials say the decision of whether or not to attend is one that graduates and their families should make on an individual basis. Should there be a change in plans for the Houston Commencement, scheduled for Saturday, May 9; LETU will publish that information online. You can go to http://www.letu.edu/ - http://www.letu.edu for any such update.
With Texas officials postponing all high school athletic competition until May 11 because of the swine flu outbreak, TISD Athletic Director Danny Long says the UIL won't get any argument from him. Long told KTBB's David Smoak, "I certainly understand their position" -- and as a UIL school district, TISD will "adhere to their request." Long says it's bound to be tough on the athletes, but they are taught "to adjust to the pitfalls of life."
And there's a related development. Each year, Trinity Mother Frances provides a free physical screening for athletic participation to over 2,000 area athletes. TISD received their screenings on April 19. However, due to the UIL decision to postpone all interscholastic activity until May 11, the school screenings scheduled for May 9 at Trinity Mother Frances HealthPark Plaza have been rescheduled for May 16. The schools affected include Mineola, Whitehouse, Troup, Wills Point, Arp, Big Sandy, Chapel Hill, Van, West Rusk, Neches, Winona, Harmony, Rusk, T.K. Gorman, Gladewater, Fruitvale, Westwood, Sabine, Overton, Hawkins, Alba-Golden. The Trinity Mother Frances Athletic Trainer Program staff will contact each school regarding this matter. Students are asked to wait for additional information from their athletic department.
Tyler's Discovery Science Place is also weighing in. Area residents who plan on visiting can rest assured that the visit will be safe according to Executive Director Michael Shanklin. Due to recent developments, says Shanklin, the DSP staff has reviewed its cleaning and sanitizing policy, and has increased the sanitizing process for the heavy, hands-on manipulative items such as LEGOs, golf balls, gears, and exhibit surfaces. Shanklin adds that the hands-on museum has increased its janitorial staff to ensure regular sanitation of all exhibit areas.
TISD Superintendent Randy Reid says Tyler Schools are taking precautions of their own when it comes to the Swine Flu. Reid says the school district has a team that met this week to take a closer look at precautions. He says they have teachers and administrators on alert to look for signs of illness among the kids. Reid says that most importantly, they're trying to get the message out to staff and students that they can protect themselves through cleanliness. Reid says a message was sent out through the "Alert Now" phone system.
The American Red Cross, Smith County Chapter, is monitoring the developing situation with this swine flu outbreak and is in close contact with state and local officials. “This is a serious situation that has the potential to spread, and it is a good time for families, businesses and organizations to follow good public health practices and to review and update their preparedness plans”, says Executive Director Tammy Prater.
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