Officials: Caution not panic

Published 11:28 pm Monday, April 27, 2009

According to an Associated Press report Monday afternoon, the Alabama Department of Public Health has started receiving samples of what might be swine flu from doctors around the state.

Health officials at state and local levels have been on alert since this weekend’s news of the outbreak of the swine influenza cases in a number of U.S. states, although none of those cases have been reported in Alabama.

The samples received Monday, which came from Pike County and Baldwin County, come just a day after State Health Officer Dr. Donald E. Williamson said Alabama had no swine flu cases but it would only be a matter of time.

Local health officials said there is “no need to panic” but it is time to refocus on the fundamentals.

“We have sent out e-mails to all principals and teachers, letting them know to remind their students of washing their hands and covering their sneezes,” Shellie Smith, RN school nurse for the Chilton County School System, said.

She said she and other school nurses in the state have been kept up to date by the state on the swine flu and the potential risk.

“We are also reminding everyone that if they are feeling any flu-like symptoms to stay home and not come to work or school,” Smith said.

According to a Department of Public Health release Sunday, the symptoms of swine flue in people appear to be similar to the symptoms of regular human influenza and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

Angela Batchelor, Clinical Care Coordinator with Chilton Medical Center, said the hospital too has been receiving updates from the Alabama Department of Public Health and said swine flu is transmitted just like normal flu.

“This strain is very contagious but is transmitted just like the other. We are encouraging everyone to take normal precautions like washing their hands, covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing,” Batchelor said. “Everyone needs to remember their personal hygiene and doing things such as using hand sanitizers after being in public areas or using, say, a shopping cart.

Also remember that nothing beats good old soap and water.”

Batchelor also urged anyone felling any flu-like symptoms to stay away from school or work.

In the release, Williams reminded residents that swine flu couldn’t be transmitted from eating pork or pork products.

Although there have not been any reports of swine flu in Alabama, Williamson called for residents to remain cautious.

“Even though the U.S. cases so far have been mild, the severity of the disease in Mexico is worrisome,” Williamson said. “It is likely swine flu cases will occur in Alabama, since there are already cases in various states and they do not appear to be linked to each other. Persons should take steps to reduce their chances of contracting influenza.”

The listed suggestions from the state are: cover your cough or sneeze with a sleeve or tissue; wash your hands with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze; avoid touching you mouth, eyes and nose with your hands and try to avoid close contact with sick people.

For updated information about swine flu, visit