Local health agency prepares for H1N1 casesNRCHS anticipating flu in southwest Minnesota WORTHINGTON — Public health agencies across Minnesota continue to receive updates several times a day on the H1N1 novel influenza virus after a second probable case was discovered Friday in Isanti County, north of the Twin Cities.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Public health agencies across Minnesota continue to receive updates several times a day on the H1N1 novel influenza virus after a second probable case was discovered Friday in Isanti County, north of the Twin Cities.
Nobles-Rock Community Health Services Administrator Brad Meyer said based on the number and location of confirmed H1N1 flu cases, the local agency anticipates it will only be a matter of time before cases are discovered in southwest Minnesota. A probable case of H1N1 flu was also reported Friday in Minnehaha County, South Dakota, and Sioux Falls officials were scheduled to meet Friday night.
“Primarily, we are anticipating it because this flu has not been predictable,” said Meyer. “We’re anticipating that we’re going to get hit … because we’re surrounded by Minnesota and South Dakota cases. Stearns County is only two and a half hours away.”
By taking the mindset that H1N1 flu cases will crop up locally, Meyer said the local agency is getting prepared with its partners.
“We’re reviewing our pandemic influenza plan, updating contact numbers and data,” said Meyer on Friday afternoon. “We’re keeping our hospitals and clinics updated, and we met with hospital staff this morning to talk about what we’re doing and what things we should be thinking about.”
Among their points of discussion, Meyer said, were establishing alternative care sites in Worthington if the hospital were to suddenly have too many patients showing symptoms of the virus.
Meyer is quick to point out that these are only discussions at this point. There is no reason for the public to be alarmed or panic.
“At this time, (the Minnesota Department of Health) is not recommending any isolation and quarantine measures,” Meyer said. “We are encouraging people to go about their business as usual, but try to stay away from … friends or family members who may be sick.
“We encourage people to stay at home if they feel sick, and follow safe procedures,” he added.
Those procedures include covering your mouth to cough or sneeze, washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizing gel if you do not have easy access to soap and water.
Health officials remain perplexed as to why cases of H1N1 in the United States appear to be a milder form of the flu that has sickened many in Mexico.
“No one knows why the strain in Mexico is so much stronger than what’s happening in the rest of the world,” Meyer said.
Regardless of where the virus was first discovered, Meyer said the H1N1 flu does not discriminate.
“This is not a cultural illness, it doesn’t know any cultural boundaries,” he said. “Every type of population is being affected by the H1N1 right now — Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics. It’s a community illness that is spread within the community, and it doesn’t matter what community that is.”
People diagnosed with H1N1 influenza have experienced fevers of 100 degrees or higher, headaches, fatigue or weakness and chest discomfort or cough. If left untreated the flu can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia, which is typically what a person will die from, said Meyer.
“Most of the cases in the United States do not need to be hospitalized and are being sent home with orders for adults to stay home for seven days and children to stay home for 10 days after the onset of their symptoms,” Meyer said.
NRCHS has daily contact with MDH, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Association for City and County Health Officials.