Health officials: "Swine flu cause for concern, not panic"

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Thursday, representatives from the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency, area hospitals and the Chatham County Health Department came together as a united force to let people know they are following swine flu very closely.

There is now one confirmed case of swine flu in Georgia and eight cases in South Carolina.

"We have a number of our citizens contacting us regarding the swine flu," said county commission chairman Pete Liakakis. "We want to let our citizens know we have no reports of swine flu in our area at this time. We want our citizens to understand that we are prepared in case something was to occur."

"I think everybody knows of the outbreak of this new influenza virus which contains components of both pig, bird and human virus, continues to spread," said Dr. Diane Weems from the Chatham County Health Department. "In general, if you look at the majority of cases in the United States, most have been relatively mild so far."

"We don't want the public to panic in any way, shape or form," said Liakakis. "Things are put in place so that if something was to occur in our community, that we will address that and take the necessary steps to prevent the spreading of this flu."

Assistant director for CEMA Dennis Jones also told us that we should not worry. All health care workers and schools are prepared for whatever might happen.

"Our community has never been better prepared based on planning efforts over the past several years to deal with an influenza outbreak, whether it's seasonal flu or something like this swine flu," said Weems.

Emmett Smith with Memorial University Medical Center said the hospital has stock piled medications for the treatment of swine flu and is ready to handle any patients who might get sick.

"What we ask is unless you really need the services at the emergency room, you call us and ask us  questions first so we can determine whether you need to come in," said Smith. "The emergency room is for emergencies, not a routine clinic."

"Like seasonal influenza, we know those most at risk for complications are those who are the youngest and those who are the oldest in our population," said Weems. "The signs and symptoms of this flu are not very much different from what we see in seasonal flu, the thing we prepare for every fall and winter season."

The symptoms of swine flu in people are often similar to regular seasonal flu and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

"This outbreak certainty poses the potential to be at least as serious as seasonal flu," said Weems. "It is cause for concern, but it is not cause for panic."

There are some things you can do to help prevent the spread of the disease. First make sure you wash your hands with soap and water often, especially if you're coughing and sneezing.

If you have any of the above symptoms, please contact your local health care provider.

For more information about the swine flu, visit www.gachd.org, www.sehdph.org or the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/swineflu.

You can also call the health department's flu hotline at 912.691.6223.

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