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No Swine Flu Detected Here; PA On Guard

HARRISBURG PA – No cases of swine flu had been detected or reported within Pennsylvania as of Monday (April 27, 2009) at 1 p.m., the state Department of Health reported. While no news could be good news, Health Secretary Everette James said, the agency isn’t letting its guard down.

Pigs are catching the blame.

Pigs are catching the blame.

The department notified health care providers statewide to watch for patients with influenza-like illness. They’re under orders to immediately inform local health departments of any suspected cases.

The warning follows a swine flu epidemic that began in Mexico and “entered a dangerous new phase Monday,” The Associated Press said. Deaths linked to the illness mounted there, and the number of suspected cases in the United States nearly doubled. The World Health Organization (WHO) raised its alert level, The AP added, but stopped short of declaring a global emergency.

Area’s congressman weighs in. Rep. Charlie Dent, whose 15th Congressional District (PA) includes Lower Pottsgrove Township, urged constituents Monday to stay informed about the current outbreak, but cautioned against panic. “Obviously we need to be concerned,” Dent said, but added the illness could be limited with “effective action and good common sense.”

County planning kicks in. Montgomery County’s (PA) Health and Public Safety departments on Monday reminded the public that local plans for dealing with a pandemic, should one ever arise, are already in place. DVDs have been available for some time that direct specific audiences like school districts, businesses, emergency responders and health care providers on how they are expected to respond if an illness spreads.

So-called “pandemic readiness videos” have been created for general public viewing, too. Separate versions for residents, and schools and businesses, run between 26 and 29 minutes in length and can be seen online.

National and global worries. Swine flu (swine influenza) is a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza viruses that cause regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections have occured in the past.

The suspected number of deaths rose to 149 in Mexico, where nearly 2,000 people are believed to be infected. The number of U.S. cases doubled to 42, although none was fatal. U.S. cases have been reported in New York, Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. Worldwide there were 73 cases, including six in Canada, one in Spain and two in Scotland.

There is no vaccine available to prevent the specific strain now being seen, but some antiflu drugs do work once someone is sick. Millions of doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile were on their way to states, with priority given to the five already affected and to border states. It could take 4-6 months before the first batch of vaccines are available to fight the virus, WHO officials said.

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