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Possible swine flu cases to be examined

FROM STAFF REPORTS

While there have been no confirmed swine flu cases in Alabama, Pike County residents may not need to breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has begun receiving samples of what might be swine flu from doctors around the state who suspect their patients could have the virus.

According to Assistant State Health Officer Charles Woernle, the state department’s lab has received several samples from Pike and Baldwin counties.

Although, it has not been confirmed as to exactly who in Pike County sent off the samples, Troy Regional Medical Center CEO Rusty Eldridge confirmed it did not come from the hospital.

Woernle said any confirmation would take a while because validated samples at the state level must be sent to the Center for Disease Control for final confirmation.

The receipt of specimens comes just a day after State Health Officer Don Williamson said Alabama had no swine flu cases, but it would only be a matter of time.

The virus has already spread rapidly across the United States, with 40 confirmed cases in the U.S., and the majority of those cases in New York City.

In Mexico, 150 people have died as a result of the virus and the World Health Organization has confirmed nearly 2,000 cases.

“A lot of people are wondering why the virus seems more severe in Mexico, and there are a couple of causes for that,” Williamson said. “The virus could have changes and weakened as it moves around the U.S.”

Another possibility, Williamson said is the virus is not widespread enough for everyone to see the devastation it is capable of causing.

While there have been no confirmed cases, Williamson said he was certain cases will be seen in Alabama.

“Given the fact that the disease has now spread to five or more states, I think we will almost certainly see cases in Alabama,” he said. “The good news is, however, that it has been a mild illness, and it is sensitive to drugs. Although there is not a vaccine for swine flu, we have 500,000 doses of treatment stockpiled in Alabama, so we are prepared to confront the virus.”

With an abundance of students, American and international, Troy University is preparing in case of an outbreak.

“At this point in time, we are just monitoring the situation very carefully,” said Dean of Services Herb Reeves. “We have had meetings concerning swine flu, and we are preparing ourselves in case of an outbreak.”

The university is following the guidelines of the Department of Public Health, and Reeves said the university will be sending out an e-mail to all of its students worldwide.

“All we can really do is warn people to take precautions against the swine flu,” he said.