COLLIER COUNTY — The recent swine flu outbreak in Mexico and subsequent cases of swine flu in 5 states in the US, and a handful of other countries has gained worldwide attention. The Secretary of Homeland Security has declared this event a public health emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are aggressively dedicating resources to the outbreak in order to contain the spread of this novel virus to which we have no immunity. The goals during this public health emergency are simple: to reduce transmission and illness severity. Locally, your Collier County Health Department, along with partners in healthcare, schools, and emergency management are activating plans they have had in place for several years.
At this time there are NO known human cases of swine flu in Collier County. However, this could change at any time. We are diverting resources to enhance our usual epidemiological surveillance and seek out any cases in our community. We have also asked our healthcare partners to be on high alert for patients presenting with flu-like symptoms and a history of travel to affected areas or for those who have been in contact with a person who has traveled to one of these areas and is now symptomatic.
In this way we hope to identify any cases of swine flu in our community. Cases and contacts will be treated with antivirals and told to stay at home. Our staff will be in phone contact with them on a daily basis. This is called case containment and is our best method of controlling any outbreak should we have cases here in Collier County.
If this strategy does not work, then we will need to move to what is called community controls. This is what you see happening in Mexico City: school closures, public gatherings prohibited, and people wearing masks when they leave their home. That is done to break the transmission of disease on a community level.
Another very important component of our effort to keep our community safe is our public health messages delivered via local media, our Swine Flu Information Phone Line at 252-6220 and our website, www.CollierPrepares.org. We do want our residents to stay aware of the situation and get personally prepared now! That means to plan what you will need at home should the situation worsen, cases become widespread, and you or a family member become ill with swine flu. I urge you to open the Get Ready Now flyer on CollierPrepares.org. Get Ready Now outlines the steps you can take to prepare and protect your family and friends. It includes information on how to make a Flu Supply Kit. It lists foods and beverages most likely to be tolerated during a bout with the flu.
We also want people to practice good respiratory etiquette in order to avoid contracting the flu. Respiratory etiquette means:
Wash your hands often. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the sleeve of your upper arm to avoid spreading the germs.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Do not share eating and beverage utensils.
Try to avoid close contact with people who are ill.
If you think you are ill with flu: Avoid close contact with others, stay home from work or school and seek immediate medical care if your symptoms include difficulty breathing or a high fever.
Respiratory etiquette is a message we share with you annually during our regular flu season from October to March. Now because of this critical swine flu situation, we are asking you take it to heart more than ever! Each year, in the United States, an average of 36,000 people die and over 100,000 are hospitalized. And those statistics pertain to seasonal flu which we have a reasonable means of protection from in the form of the annual flu shot. A novel flu such as this swine flu poses the potential to be significantly more dangerous than a regular seasonal flu. Without immunity or a readily available vaccine, there is the risk that this flu will become more widespread and severe than the usual seasonal flu. CollierPrepares.org will be updated daily. In addition to local information, the site has a link to swine flu web pages, hosted by CDC and WHO.
If you have questions about the swine flu, you can also call our Swine Flu Information Phone Line at 239-252-6220. At this point in time, the Information Line will be open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. Those hours may expand or contract according to demand and how the swine flu situation progresses. The best that can happen is that the outbreak will be contained quickly with minimal cases and mild illness for those affected. However, being prepared is the best way to minimize the threat to our community. We have many community partners assisting us in this effort and hope you will be a vigilant and active partner as well!