State health officials continue to work closely with partners at the federal, state and local level to respond to the swine flu outbreak in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared the outbreak of swine flu a public health emergency.
As part of that declaration, federal officials have begun shipment of significant quantities of materials to help states prepare and respond to the spread of swine flu. These materials include antiviral medications for treatment of individuals who are sick, along with other medical equipment and supplies that may be needed if the current situation changes. Massachusetts will begin receiving initial quantities of these materials in the coming days.
“This is understandably a concerning time for Massachusetts residents who have heard so much about swine flu over the past couple of days,” said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach. “However, I want to assure everyone that our team is working overtime on this matter and I am confident that we are taking all necessary precautions to protect the people of the Commonwealth.”
DPH officials continue to take steps to increase surveillance of influenza-like illness in Massachusetts, asking health care providers and hospital emergency departments to be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms -- especially in people who have recently traveled to Mexico or any of the U.S. states which have confirmed cases. If a provider suspects a patient may be infected with swine flu, DPH requests that they perform and submit a swab test for laboratory testing.
Even though no cases have been identified in Massachusetts, there are steps that everyone can take to prevent getting or spreading any type of influenza: wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow instead of into your hands; and if you’re sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.
Swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Most commonly, human cases of swine flu happen in people who are around pigs but it’s possible for swine flu viruses to spread from person to person as well. Swine flu is not transmitted by food and you cannot get swine flu by eating pork products.
For general information on swine flu and the status of the nationwide outbreak, visit www.cdc.gov/swineflu. For more information on the Massachusetts response, and how to care for someone at home who has the flu, please visit www.mass.gov/dph.