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Area preps for swine flu

No cases of the much talked about swine influenza have been reported in North Dakota, but area health officials are preparing in case of an outbreak.

In many ways, swine flu mirrors regular influenza, said Sherry Adams, pandemic flu coordinator for the Southwestern District Health Unit in Dickinson.

"The reason there is concern is this is a new strain of flu," Adams said. "Swine flu is common in pigs, but occasionally a human will get the swine flu from being in contact with a pig that has the flu and usually that's all it does and nobody gets too bad or anything."

Between 2005 until this January, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The virus has adapted and is now able to be passed human-to-human through coughing or sneezing, such as seasonal flu, Adams said.

Persons are not able to contract swine flu by eating pork, she added.

About 40 cases have been confirmed in the United States. They are in California, Kansas, New York City, Ohio and Texas, according to the CDC.

In a press conference held Monday in Bismarck, state health officials fielded questions from the media and health officials.

"North Dakota is taking strong contingency steps in response to the report of swine influenza causing illness in Mexico as well as parts of the United States," said Terry Dwelle, state health officer. "We are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution at this point."

Symptoms of swine flu include a cough, fever, runny nose and sore throat among others, and no vaccine available is able to combat it specifically, though Tamiflu is being used in some cases. A vaccine for the swine flu may be created, she added.

"We have a stock pile of anti-viral drugs within the state, it's in a state of readiness," said Tim Wiedrich, section chief for the state emergency preparedness and response section.

"We don't actually need these drugs at this point."

Hand washing, covering mouths when coughing and staying home when sick are all ways that can help prevent the spread of this flu, Adams said.

"We are taking it seriously as a credible threat and planning as it will be coming to North Dakota because we don't want to be caught off guard," Adams said.

Information packets will be mailed to businesses, schools and first responders, she said.

For more information on swine flu, visit the Center for Disease Control Web site