Tahoe on swine flu watch | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe on swine flu watch

LAKE TAHOE ” Although no cases of swine flu had been identified in El Dorado or Douglas counties as of Tuesday evening, local and regional officials said they are watching the spread of the disease closely.

The outbreak began in Mexico, where more than 1,600 cases have been reported and where the suspected death toll has climbed to 149.

The number of confirmed cases in the United States rose to 68 on Tuesday, and federal officials warned that deaths were likely. In New York, the city’s health commissioner said “many hundreds” of schoolchildren were ill at a school where some students had confirmed cases.

Thirteen cases of swine flu have been confirmed in California, including three students at St. Mel Elementary School in Woodland Hills.

On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency that will help California agencies coordinate efforts in response to the outbreak of swine flu.

Schwarzenegger’s proclamation sets in motion a series of administrative actions, including ordering all agencies to coordinate with public health officials as needed.

Schwarzenegger also cautioned that “there is no need for alarm.”

Locally, representatives from Barton Memorial Hospital urged residents to use common sense when reacting to the swine flu outbreak.

“Unless you have severe symptoms, please just stay home,” Darcie Carpenter, Barton’s Director of Emergency Management and Infection Control said in a statement. “Barton HealthCare System is working closely with El Dorado County Public Health to ensure the best possible care for our residents and our visitors.”

Health officials are encouraging businesses and schools to send anyone home who has symptoms, and parents are encouraged to stay home with sick children, Barton spokeswoman Denise Sloan Smart said in the statement.

The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

“Barton has emergency supplies for this type of occurrence,” Carpenter added. “And if Barton runs out of supplies, El Dorado County Public Health, the state of California and federal agencies also have emergency stockpile supplies we could tap into.”

In order to help prevent the spread of the virus, Sloan Smart urged patients to not go to the emergency rooms unless they are experiencing severe signs of illness.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District spokeswoman Angie Keil said teachers have been told to be on the lookout for students with flu-like symptoms. School medical staff have also been informed about how to treat a hypothetical swine flu infection to decrease the chances of spreading the disease, Keil said.

“Our nurses are monitoring everything closely,” Keil said.

Keil encourages parents to check the school district’s Web site ” http://www.ltusd.org ” for the latest information.

In Nevada, officials outlined aggressive efforts to deal with swine flu in the event the contagious virus shows up in the Silver State. Outbreaks elsewhere “have got our attention,” Gov. Jim Gibbons said, adding that the state has a response plan that’s based on “standard operating procedures.”

Mike Willden, the state’s health and human services chief, added that Nevada has access to hundreds of thousands of stockpiled doses of medicine for treating people should an outbreak occur. More than three-quarters of those doses would be for people in the Las Vegas area, Nevada’s population center, he added.

” Tribune staff writer Adam Jensen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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