State, county health officials preparing for swine flu cases |

State, county health officials preparing for swine flu cases

John Colson
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” As health officials around the U.S., Mexico and the world brace for a possible pandemic of a new strain of swine flu, agencies in Colorado say they are taking precautions and waiting to see if any cases are detected in Colorado.

Local health officials are preparing for a possible outbreak in the Colorado and Roaring Fork valleys, in recognition of the relatively constant flow of traffic between here and various parts of Mexico and Central America.

In the meantime, individuals of all ages who show flu-like symptoms are being asked to stay home from work or school and to see a doctor right away.

Since initial reports last week, more than 100 people in Mexico are believed to have died of the disease, and it is known to have spread to the U.S. and other countries.

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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced on Monday that “in response to the rapidly changing swine flu outbreak, [Gov. Bill Ritter] had taken the precautionary measure of requesting Colorado’s allotment of antiviral medication from the federal national stockpile.”

Antiviral medications are believed to be effective in fighting the virus once it has infected someone, health officials said.

As of Monday afternoon, there still had been no documented or reported Colorado cases., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jim Rada, manager of Environmental Health for Garfield County, said he had been in touch off and on all day with regional, state and federal health authorities on the topic. He said his department would be sending out e-mail alerts to area town and county governments regarding precautions for the public to take, and resources for information as the swine flu story continues to develop.

“Basically, we’re on an alert status,” Rada said. “We’re certain we have flu in the state; we might even have swine flu,” but nothing was reported as confirmed.

He said his office and other agencies in the region prepared emergency plans during the international flap over the avian flu several years ago, and those plans are being consulted and updated now. A vaccine for the particular variant of swine flu, he said, is probably “many weeks, if not several months” away from being developed.

Although there have been no travel restrictions issued by authorities, Rada said the high percentage of residents in this area with relatives in Mexico is a concern.

“We certainly understand the potential associated with characteristics of our local community,” he said, and public health officials have begun reaching out to the regional Hispanic population with information and recommendations.

He said more information will be available on the Garfield County website,

At the Mountain Family Medical Center, Cathy Jones, director of nursing, said the clinic has seen “a lot of sick patients” but none that appeared to be infected with swine flu.

All patients with flu-like symptoms, she said, are screened for recent travel information and any contact with individuals who might have had contact with pigs, and the clinic has been fielding “lots of phone calls” from concerned people experiencing symptoms.

At midday on Monday, there had been 40 confirmed cases of swine influenza in the United States involving California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas, according to the CDPHE. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared a public health emergency in order to activate national resources in addressing the evaluation of the situation.

“I fully expect us to identify cases in the near future, given the presence of the virus in other states,” said Colorado Chief Medical Officer Ned Calonge. “It’s important to understand that at this time, in the United States, the swine flu is acting just like seasonal flu, It is a relatively mild disease; all cases have fully recovered and only one has required hospitalization.”

Calonge added, “We are asking all individuals with mild flu-like illness to stay home. This is regardless of travel history. Children and adolescents with fever should not go to day care or school. Adults with fever should not go to work until their symptoms resolve. Individuals with severe illness, such as difficulty breathing, should contact their health care provider.”

Health officials have stressed that swine flu is passed from person to person and not from pigs or from eating pork.

The state is urging residents to log onto the website,, for updates on current conditions.

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