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April 27, 2009

State Public Health Director Updates H1N1 Flu Outbreak and Stresses Importance of Preventive Measures
No confirmed cases in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director, along with Andrew Velasquez, III, Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director, today discussed steps Illinois has taken to safeguard Illinoisans against the threat of H1N1 influenza.

At this time, the CDC is reporting 20 human cases of influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) in the United States; seven cases in California, two in Kansas, eight in New York City, one in Ohio and two in Texas.

“There are no confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in Illinois at this time,” Dr. Arnold said at a state Capitol news conference. “The Department has investigated a number of reports of flu-like illness over the weekend, but laboratory tests for swine flu were negative.  This, however, is a rapidly evolving situation and we fully expect to see cases in Illinois.  The Department and its public health partners, including local health departments, hospitals and emergency departments, are on full alert to watch for possible cases.  We are prepared to act swiftly to assure early detection and to respond in the event a case or cases are identified to limit its spread.”

Dr. Arnold urged the public to continue to monitor the news and heed the advice provided by federal, state and local health officials, and their health care provider.

H1N1 flu is a respiratory disease of pigs and typically, humans are not infected.  However, the CDC has confirmed human-to-human transmission of H1N1 flu cases.

Symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.  Some people also have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

Dr. Arnold said the public should follow some common sense precautions to avoid getting sick or, if sick, infecting others:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your arm.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water – especially after you cough and sneeze.  You can also use alcohol-based hand cleaners.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth – that’s how germs are spread.
• If you get sick – stay home from work or school and limit your contact with other people to avoid infecting them.  Parents should follow these same recommendations for their children.

For people who have flu-like symptoms and have traveled to areas where H1N1 flu has been confirmed, they should seek medical attention.  However, if a person has flu-like symptoms, but has not traveled to areas where H1N1 flu has been confirmed, they should stay home and contact a doctor to see if they should go in for testing.

“The Department and its partners have prepared for events such as this and will do everything possible to ensure your health and safety,” Dr. Arnold said.  “We will work closely with hospitals and health departments and follow the testing and reporting procedures we have in place.  We will educate the public on how to prevent the spread of disease and make sure those who are ill have the medical treatment they need.”

U.S. Health and Homeland Security officials announced yesterday steps to release a quarter of the country's stockpiles of anti-flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza.  Dr. Arnold said Illinois currently has a sufficient emergency supply of anti-flu drugs, but we will receive additional supplies from the federal government’s stockpile this week.

Although there are currently no travel restrictions, this could change.  For the most up to date travel information log onto http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluTravel.aspx.  If you have recently traveled to one of the affected areas you should pay close attention to your health for seven days. 

We 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 Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) also is closely monitoring the developing situation and working to ensure response plans can be activated quickly if necessary.  In addition to coordinating closely with Dr. Arnold, IEMA Director Velasquez participated in several situation briefings with the Department of Homeland Security over the weekend.  IEMA alerted state agency liaisons to the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) of the developing situation over the weekend, and Monday afternoon the liaisons will meet to discuss potential response actions.  State emergency management officials also have contacted local emergency management agencies throughout the state to make them aware of developments and ensure that they are prepared to deal with a potential flu outbreak in Illinois.

The Department will continually update information on H1N1 flu on its Web site at www.idph.state.il.us and also the www.ready.illinois.gov Web site.



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