State Health Officer: Two probable cases of swine flu in Alabama

Dr. Donald E. Williamson, state health officer, announced Wednesday evening that two probable cases of swine flu have been detected in Alabama.

However, no cases of the swine flu have been reported in Shelby County.

Williamson announced two probable cases had been detected in two different students at Heritage Elementary School in Madison County. Although the students did not directly test positive for swine flu, they did not test positive for the known seasonal flus, indicating around a 90 percent probability of having swine flu.

More than 100 people who tested positive for swine flu have died in Mexico. More than 50 cases in five states have been reported in the U.S., but those cases seem minor in comparison to the ones in Mexico, Williamson said.

Nine samples of the swine flu virus have been sent to Alabama laboratories, which will allow state officials to differentiate probable cases of swine flu from the seasonal strains typical for this time of year, should they be contracted here.

He said patients who present themselves to heath care professionals in all areas of Alabama are receiving influenza rapid tests in an attempt to quickly diagnose any potential swine flu cases.

Williamson urged Alabama residents to follow the basic rules of good hygiene, such as hand washing, avoiding rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth, and coughing into your sleeve, rather into the air on onto your hands.

“If you are coughing, sneezing or have muscle aches, stay home,” Williamson said.

He also cautioned parents of children who may develop flu-like symptoms to avoid using aspirin.

“Children under 18 should not be given aspirin, because of the potential of developing Ryes Syndrome,” Williamson said.

Susan Blumstein, infection prevention manager at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, said staff members at the hospital are exercising its emergency plan, “making sure we’re ready in case we do have some cases.”

She said as people receive information from the media about the swine flu outbreak, they are asking health professionals there about it.

“The current thing for us is to assess for signs and symptoms,” Blumstein said. “If patients are coughing, we are putting a mask on them and getting them out of the waiting room immediately.”