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April 25, 2009

State Public Health Director Keeps Close Watch on H1N1 Flu Outbreak
No known cases in Illinois but preventive measures urged

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor the recent H1N1 flu outbreak in an effort to protect the citizens of Illinois.

To date, the CDC has found 11 human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) in the United States; seven cases in California, two in Texas and two in Kansas.  There are no known cases in Illinois at this time.

“We are working with local and federal health officials to limit the impact of this outbreak and safeguard the health of the people of Illinois.  Although there are no known cases of H1N1 flu in Illinois, there is an ongoing investigation into the source and until that can be determined we must remain vigilant,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.

H1N1 influenza, H1N1 flu, is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus.  Typically, humans are not infected with H1N1 flu but infections can occur.  Human cases typically involve people who have had direct contact with pigs, but the CDC has established human-to-human transmission among these recent cases.

Health officials are working diligently to determine the source of human infection, if additional people have been infected with similar H1N1 flu viruses and to fully assess the health impact of this H1N1 flu virus.

The CDC has confirmed H1N1 flu in patients in Mexico and is working with health officials there.  Mexico’s Minister of Health believes some of the people who were infected with H1N1 flu have died.

The CDC is working very closely with state and local officials in California, Texas, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization.

“Many people travel from, to and through Illinois and it is imperative to take precautions and protect against illness,” said Dr. Arnold.  “People who have recently traveled to impacted areas and have flu symptoms need to see a doctor and be tested so we can determine if H1N1 flu is present in Illinois sooner rather than later. Aside from seeking medical attention, these people should stay home if sick.”

Although currently there are no travel restrictions recommended, the World Health Organization is holding routine meetings and this may change.  If you are planning travel to Mexico follow these recommendations to reduce your risk of infection and help you stay healthy. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluMexico.aspx

If you are returning from travel to Mexico, pay close attention to your health for seven days.  If you become sick with a fever plus a cough, sore throat or have trouble breathing during this 10-day period, see a doctor.  Stay home if you are sick unless it is to get medical care.  By limiting contact with others as much as possible, you can help prevent the spread of an infectious illness.

Our state health officials are participating in daily calls with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and CDC regarding this issue and will adopt guidelines and protocols at the direction of the CDC.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has alerted Local Health Departments, Regional Offices of IDPH, Hospital Infection Control Practitioners, Hospital Administrators, Emergency Departments and Hospital Laboratories throughout the state to make clinicians aware of the possibility of H1N1 influenza virus (SIV) infections as well as seasonal influenza in patients presenting with febrile respiratory illness who have traveled to one of the locations where reported cases have been found (two counties in California, one county in Texas or Mexico) seven days prior to onset of illness (or have been in contact with an ill person who has traveled to the places where reported cases have been found).

Seasonal flu symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing.  Reported H1N1 flu symptoms also include runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

A seasonal flu shot is not expected to protect against H1N1 flu and therefore the Illinois Department of Public Health recommends taking the following precautions:  cover your cough or sneeze, wash your hands frequently, and see your doctor if you have fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you get sick, stay home and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.

H1N1 flu is not transmitted by food.  You cannot get H1N1 influenza from eating pork products, however it is always recommended to thoroughly cook pork to avoid foodborne illness.

This outbreak of H1N1 flu in humans has the potential to cease to be an issue, or become a greater concern.  Just as a tropical storm can lose force and die out, so can this outbreak.  But a tropical storm can also become much more powerful and turn into a hurricane, as can this outbreak, which is why health officials in Illinois, the U.S. and the world are taking aggressive steps to stop its spread and reduce the impacts.

CDC has created a webpage with information and updates. Visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swine or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.   In Spanish, http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/espanol/swine_espanol.htm

The State of Illinois is committed to sharing any new information with the public as it becomes available.


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