Swine flu has Metro Health Department ‘on alert’

Monday, April 27, 2009 at 3:46pm

The director of the Metro Health Department said Monday the expectation is there will be cases of the swine flu in Nashville and he urged the public to take precautions to prevent contracting the virus.

Metro Health Director Dr. Bill Paul said prevention is similar to how a person would avoid the traditional flu. In the reported cases of swine flu in the U.S., the symptoms were similar to the flu — fever, coughing, runny nose and in some cases vomiting.

“People should do the common sense things their moms taught them,” Paul said. “They should cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, wash their hands regularly… and stay home from work if they get sick.”

As of Monday afternoon, there were 40 cases of swine flu in the United States, but none in Tennessee. The virus has been most prominent in Mexico City, where more than 1,600 cases have led to 149 deaths.

The Metro Health Department is in contact with Nashville health care providers and emergency rooms, while also monitoring data from school absences. Paul said the department is primarily looking for those who may be sick after recently traveling to and from Mexico.

Paul said an outreach effort to Nashville’s Hispanic community was being organized to pass along educational information as soon as possible.

“It’s not a time for panic,” Paul said. “It’s a time for reminding people of the keys to preventing respiratory illness.”

The incubation period for swine flu is only about a day, Paul said. So far there is no vaccination for the virus.

The Metro Nashville Airport Authority only has one direct flight to Mexico, a Delta Airlines flight which leaves on Saturday. That flight has not been cancelled or postponed, although airports in other cities are screening passengers traveling from Mexico.