Stockpile of swine flu medicines ready, Nevada officials say


CARSON CITY -- The state has stockpiled medication for treating swine flu should an outbreak occur in Nevada, the governor and state health officials said Monday.

"We have thousands of doses of medicine in Nevada strategically placed in case an outbreak should occur," Gov. Jim Gibbons said during a news conference with state health officials.

State Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said the state has a plan for handing out medicine. Police, firefighters, hospital workers and government officials would be among the first to receive antiviral medication in a severe outbreak.

Martha Framsted, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said in a telephone interview that the state has 108,108 treatments courses of Tamiflu and 29,371 treatment courses of Relenza at undisclosed centers throughout Nevada.

The recommended doses of Tamiflu for an adult are two pills a day for five days, Framsted said.

Framsted added that Tamiflu and Relenza are available only with a doctor's prescription.

"It's only for treatment," she said. "If you think it's going to keep you from getting it (the flu), you're wrong. It's not a prophylactic."

Gibbons said that four people in Nevada have been tested for swine flu and that none had the virus.

He noted that in all of the 40 known cases in the United States, the ill person has recovered.

Nevada has not seen any increases at all in cases of flu, said Dr. Mary Guinan, the state's health officer. She added that the October-to-May flu season has been milder than normal.

Often people recover from swine flu who have not received any treatment, she said.

"Stay in bed a few days, and if you don't get better, see your health care provider," Guinan said.

But people should impress upon their doctors that they fear they have the illness if their doctor will not see them quickly, she said.

Guinan said symptoms include a fever of 101 degrees or higher, a sore throat and persistent cough.

"Many people say they feel like they have been hit by a bus," she said.

LOCAL EFFORTS

In other developments, the Southern Nevada Health District has stepped up its efforts to detect local cases of influenza.

All 2,400 area physicians have been asked to test individuals with flulike symptoms who recently traveled to Mexico or other areas where the virus has been found, said the health district's senior epidemiologist, Brian Labus. Typically, a smaller group of doctors voluntarily notifies the health district about flu cases.

Those tests, Labus said, will be read at a commercial lab, with results sent to the health district.

"We have not identified any cases of swine flu in this area," Labus said. "But this is a rapidly evolving situation, and we want to share what we know with the public so decisions can be made as quickly as possible."

Labus said that Southern Nevada has never been considered a "high flu area" though the area hosts tourists from all over the world.

Dr. Anette Rink with the Nevada Department of Agriculture said that people living near a pig farm in North Las Vegas are not more likely to come down with the illness.

"We're talking about human-to-human contact now," she said.

CLOSING SCHOOLS

Guinan, who said citizens can access her department's latest information on the outbreak at www.health.nv.gov., predicted that officials will close entire schools if positive cases of swine flu are found among students.

Clark County School District officials are looking for any symptoms or warning signs.

"We are telling staff that if a child comes to school with a stomach ache or is vomiting, they are to go home immediately. The same with staff," said Maria Chavez, principal of Ward Elementary, 1555 E. Hacienda Ave. near Maryland Parkway.

If a child or employee were suspected of having swine flu, the school would "extensively" clean and sanitize areas on campus that the person might have visited, said Michael Rodriguez, a school district spokesman. Parents and staff would be notified too.

Hispanics, some with family in Mexico, are in the majority at both Ward Elementary and Cannon Junior High, 5850 Euclid Ave. near Russell Road.

In discussions with parents waiting to pick up their children from school, families did not seem overly concerned about swine flu spreading from Mexico. Many shrugged their shoulders, but a few said they are following the news and waiting for any safety instructions from health officials.

"We're keeping an eye on it," said Jennifer Rosas, a mother of two daughters at Ward.

HELP FROM WASHINGTON

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was organizing a telephone conference call for today between local and state health officials in Nevada and federal agencies dealing with the flu epidemic.

He said he was satisfied with the government's response, including the Department of Homeland Security making vaccine stocks available. He said he had not yet spoken with health workers in the state.

"We have a lot of things going on," Reid said of the federal actions. "We are doing a pretty good job, I think."

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said people should take basic health and sanitation precautions such as washing hands regularly and staying home if feeling sick .

"I don't think it is a time for worry," Ensign said. "It is a time to take more precautions especially in those areas where it seems like swine flu has already entered the United States."

Staff writer James Haug and Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report. Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908, and Review-Journal Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

 

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