UT doctor: Too late to contain swine flu

April 27, 2009 4:32:53 AM PDT
A public health emergency was declared for the United States Sunday afternoon to deal with the swine flu as more cases are popping up here and across the world.[SWINE FLU: The latest news and answers to your questions]

So far, 20 cases are being reported in states like Texas, Kansas, California, New York and Ohio.

In Mexico the disease has killed up to 86 people and likely sickened up to 1,400 others. Canada has confirmed cases. France, New Zealand and Israel are reporting suspected cases. Bottom line here: The cases in the US are mild with people being treated and recovering.

US officials say the public health emergency is a precautionary measure. It allows the government easier access to flu tests and medications.

A Houston doctor says any seasonal flu vaccines will not protect you against this current strain. Doctor Richard Bradley, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, says until now there had only been about a dozen cases in the past decade of humans contracting the swine flu.

"The virus changed within the pig population, there is possibly some mixing of pig, bird or human viruses and now we have this new strain of swine influenza that's now pread from human to human," he told Eyewitness News.

Bradley says the flu is spread through respiratory droplets and symptoms are similar to human seasonal flu and include fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, coughing and sore throat.

"It's probably too late to contain it," Dr Bradley told us. "It's already in so many states that we are really beyond the general containment stage. Now we are going to try to contain individual cases and prevent that from spreading to the people around them."

In Washington, officials say there moving some of the 50 million doses of Tamiflu from the nation's stockpile.

"We are freeing up a quarter of those for use by the states in addition to whatever state stock piles they have should they need it," Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said. "Priority will go to the states that have confirmed outbreaks of disease."

Bradley says since the outbreak started in Mexico, border states will certainly be at higher risk but the swine flu is rapidly becoming a nationwide and global outbreak.

"The key besides just avoiding travel is avoiding sick people," Dr. Bradley advised. "That's not just in Mexico but anywhere you go. Stay away from someone who's sick, if you are sick stay away from other people."

Dr. Bradley offers a few tips:
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw it away immediately
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- if you don't have access to that an alcohol based hand cleanser

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