Swine Flu North Dakota
As of Monday, no cases of swine flu have yet been confirmed in North Dakota, according to the State Health Department, but the state has notified physicians, public health units and hospitals asking them to increase surveillance for the disease.
"North Dakota is taking strong contingency steps ... we are taking these steps out of an abundance in caution at this point in time," Dr. Terry Dwelle, state health officer for the department of health, said.
Tim Weidrich, section chief of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section of the department of health, explained that in addition to the alert message sent out to healthcare professionals, the health department has a stockpile of antiviral drugs in a state of readiness should their use become necessary.
Antivirals can't prevent swine flu, but they can prevent the illness from getting worse in a person who has already contracted it. No vaccine for swine flu is currently available.
Swine flu transmission from person to person can be prevented in ways similar to preventing the spread of regular influenza.
Dwelle explained that by taking personal precautions, such as staying home if you're sick to prevent spreading illness to others, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue while coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands frequently can reduce person to person transmission by 73 percent.
Swine flu's symptoms are similar to that of influenza, and include sore throat, cough, fever, and fatigue.
Dr. Casmiar Nwaigwe, infectious disease specialist for Trinity Health of Minot, said North Dakotans shouldn't need to take drastic measures or alter their daily activities, but they should be cautious if they come in contact with someone showing signs of respiratory illness who has recently traveled to areas where swine flu cases have been reported.
"If you have any respiratory symptoms, they should notify their health-care provider by telephone," Nwaigwe said. "If you get very sick, you should seek medical help immediately."
The 40 reported cases confirmed in the United States are in California, Kansas, New York City, Ohio and Texas. The symptoms experienced by individuals in the U.S. have so far been milder than those experienced by individuals in Mexico. All known cases in the U.S. have recovered.
"One of the things people are wondering, is why is it (swine flu) making some people sicker, it there a particular risk group? So far, we haven't been able to explain why some people are recovering from it," Nwaigwe said.
The state health department will continue to monitor the situation, and provide updates as more information about the disease is gathered. Further information on swine flu can be found at
the CDC's website, (www.cdc.gov/swineflu).