Selma prepared for swine flu outbreak

Published 7:23 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Although there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Alabama, some local residents figure it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the virus that resulted in seven confirmed deaths in Mexico before spreading across the border into the United States. As of Wednesday, there were 91 confirmed cases of swine flu in six states.

Pharmacy manager Susan Poe said people came into Walgreens on the corner of Broad Street and Highland Avenue this week to buy paper masks and ask about the pharmacy’s flu vaccine supply. The pharmacy has plenty of Tamiflu, one of two vaccines, Poe said.

“Most people aren’t fearing that they have it,” she said. “But we’ve had calls regarding if we have enough medication to handle an outbreak. If we have any problem, we are able to meet the patient’s needs.”

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Ashvin Parikh, health services administrator of the Dallas County Health Department, said there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in the county. However, the health department received a number of phone calls Wednesday from people concerned about the spread of the virus.

“I talked to the clerk, and she said about 10-to-15 people called,” Parikh said. “We don’t have any cases in Dallas County though.”

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza type A viruses that typically cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can occur. Human cases typically involve people who have had direct contact with pigs, but person-to-person transmission is suspected among recent cases in the U.S. and Mexico.

Callie Nelson, Dallas County Extension Coordinator, said her office has not received any phone calls regarding the swine flu. There are no major pork producers in Dallas County,” she said.

“We don’t have any major pork producers,” she said.

The Alabama State Health Department tested eight specimens Tuesday, but none showed signs of swine flu or even of regular seasonal flu, according to health department officials.

Tim Williamson, a pharmacist at Carter Drug Company on Broad Street, said no one has come in the store asking about swine flu, yet. For the average Alabama resident, Williamson said he did not believe there was a whole lot to worry about. Like many flu strains, young and elderly people who have weak immune systems are more susceptible than others, Williamson said.

“The potential for everybody to be real contagious is what they’re worried about,” he said. “It’s just a different strain of the flu, and it’s going to be real easy for people to catch it.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health released a list of recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus: cover your cough or sneeze with a sleeve or tissue, wash your hands often with soap and water and avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose with your hands.

In a press release, State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson said following these recommendations would make a world of difference.

“The best way to prevent the spread is through following basic rules of hygiene,” he said.