Swine flu hits Suffolk

Published 10:10 pm Monday, June 22, 2009

Two children and one adult have been confirmed as the first cases of swine flu in the city of Suffolk.

The three patients were not critical cases and did not need to be hospitalized, according to Amal Patel, epidemiologist at the Western Tidewater Health District.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that cause regular outbreaks in pigs. Humans do not normally get swine flu, but human infections do happen. Most human infections of swine flu do not get spread from one person to another. However, an outbreak earlier this spring believed to have started in Mexico has spread to the United States and several other countries.

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Patel said the cases in Suffolk are not surprising, given the fact that most every other city in Hampton Roads already has had several confirmed cases.

“Because it was found earlier in other cities in Hampton Roads, we knew it was out there, it was just a matter of a person who had it being tested,” Patel said. “It could have been in the community for a while, but not picked up until these three cases were confirmed.”

Patel said the recent confirmations of swine flu should not be a cause for panic, but serve as a reminder for basic public health procedures.

The swine flu virus is spread from person to person mainly through coughing or sneezing. People can become infected by touching something with the virus on it and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes. The virus is not spread through eating pork that has been properly handled and prepared.

“We always say that everyone needs to make sure to wash their hands, cover their coughs and basically take their personal preventive measures like you would during any typical flu season,” Patel said. “It’s something to be aware of, but it’s not anything to be scared of.”

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people report having diarrhea and vomiting. The illness can also exacerbate chronic medical conditions.

Anyone who feels symptomatic should call his doctor before making trips into the office, Patel said.

“It’s always prudent to call your physician beforehand,” Patel said. “The physician may not want people coming in depending on the severity of the symptoms. They would not want someone with flu-like symptoms coming into their offices to sit with healthy patients. Basically, we’re going to see the same direction from the physicians that they would give during the typical flu season.”