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State officials say swine flu no cause for panic
By John Patterson | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/27/2009 12:07 PM

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SPRINGFIELD - The state's public health director said swine flu will likely come to Illinois but urge the public to remain calm and said official are working to minimize any effects of the a potential outbreak here.

"We must remain clam," said Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. "There is no need to panic at this point. This is something we will get through."

Arnold said there were seven investigations over the weekend of possible swine flu. All tested negative. In fact, six weren't the flu at all. He said there's also a milder, seasonal flu currently going around.

The difference between the two, Arnold said, is swine flu is far more aggressive and symptoms quickly become severe. Regular flu brings fever and chills. Swine flu carries those symptoms further and can add diarrhea and vomiting and trouble breathing.

Arnold said if someone begins having difficulty breathing or is unable to keep down liquids, treatment should be sought. In addition, if mild flu symptoms begin to improve and then quickly worsen, treatment should be sought.

As of Monday, federal health officials had confirmed 20 human cases of swine flu in the United States: seven in California, two in Kansas, eight in New York City, one in Ohio and two in Texas.

Arnold and Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Andrew Velasquez said the state's efforts in recent years to prepare for a possible bird flu outbreak have left it prepared for this scenario.

Meetings are planned today with several state agencies to coordinate responses, and discussions are underway with education officials to discuss potential reactions and at what point the state would consider closing schools if students or faculty are infected.

Illinois officials said flights at O'Hare International Airport are not as big a concern for spread of the virus as the thousands of people crossing the Mexican border every day. A severe swine flu has sickened more than 1,000 people in Mexico.

Arnold urged anyone who feels sick with flu-like symptoms to stay home, use over-the-counter remedies and limit contact with other people. Additional medical treatment should be sought if the symptoms become severe. "We don't want to have a surge on the medical system," he said.

He also recommended frequent hand washing.