Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Montana is among a dwindling number of states that still have no confirmed cases of the swine flu, although state and local officials continue to closely monitor the situation. Hill County Sanitarian Clay Vincent said this morning that the county is still seeing cases of seasonal influenza, and both strains should be treated in the same way. “People can get over both very quickly, if they take care of themelves,” Vincent said. Montana this morning was one of seven states listed on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site as being free of confirmed cases of the new strain of flu. Others included North Dakota and Wyoming, with South Dakota this mornig reporting its first case. Ron Knudson, Hill County emergency services director, said this morning that local agencies and organizations are keeping in close contact with each other to monitor for the swine flu, and preparing in case it is confirmed in the state. Vincent added that the state and local entities are being regularly updated on how to proceed if a case of the new strain is found in the state. Jon Ebelt, public communications officer with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, said this morning the state laboratory has tested about 500 specimens, all of which were negative for the swine flu virus. He said about 20 percent of those specimens did test positive for seasonal influenza. “Seasonal influenza is still occurring in Montana,” Ebelt said. “People shouldn’t let their guard down.” He added that, although it is encouraging that the new H1N1 strain of flu is typically showing milder symptoms than the normal seasonal flu, it is still a concern. “It still is ongoing, and it’s still spreading rapidly,” Ebelt said. The nation this morning had 1,639 confirmed cases of the infection up from 896 Thursday with two deaths due to it reported. Both of those deaths were in Texas. Knudson said Thursday that the increasing number of confirmed cases could be due to the completion of laboratory work, with the number growing as tests are completed. At the meeting April 1, the health and emergency service officials stressed that the most important action is prevention people should regularly wash their hands, using soap and water for 10-15 seconds or using hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available, and should cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their sleeve. People have been urged to stay home if they show signs of the flu, which is typically of lower severity than most strains that occur during the flu season. Rest at home for about seven days should let the illness run its course, health officials said April 30. The concern is that if people with the virus go out, more will be infected, potentially causing a large number of cases to occur. The symptoms of the H1N1 virus typically include fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting. People concerned that they may have the flu are asked to call their doctor, rather than going to the office and risking exposing others to the illness. Information on the CDC Web site, updated Thursday, says people who believe they have the new strain of flu should stay home and avoid contact with other people. If people need to seek medical care, they are asked to wear a mask or cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue.