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Residents urged to take precautions

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Calling for residents to take personal responsibility and precautions, Gov. Bob Riley warned Wednesday that “every person in Alabama should be concerned” about the possibility of contracting swine flu.

Riley’s warning came during a press conference in which he and State Health Officer Don Williamson announced that there were two probable cases of swine flu at a Madison County elementary school, and officials are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control.

State officials have closed the school for at least seven days, since other children at the school also were showing signs of respiratory illness.

Williamson said these cases, as with others around the country, appear to be unrelated to Mexico or travel to Mexico, which increases the cause for alarm.

Meanwhile, officials said the samples tested from Pike County did not appear to be swine flu.

The World Health Organization scrambled to convene flu experts for a third emergency meeting in response to a spike in swine flu Wednesday, raising the worldwide pandemic alert for swine flu to the second highest level, mean that it believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan declared the phase 5 alert after consulting with flu experts from around the world.

The decision could lead the global body to recommend additional measures to combat the outbreak, including shifting vaccine manufacturers efforts from season flu vaccines to a pandemic vaccine.

“All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans,” Chan told reporters in Geneva. “It really is all of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic.

Locally, Troy Regional Medical Center emergency room has been on heightened alert for several days trying to identify any patients with flu symptoms.

Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Ventress said the hospital has access to a negative pressure room and any patient who exhibits flu symptoms can be placed in that room to reduce exposure to other patients.

Pharmacies in town also are stocking up on Tamiflu, one of the two medications, which can be used to treat the flu.

According to state officials, there are about 700,000 doses of Tamiflu in Alabama.

In Troy, pharmacies are well stocked with Tamiflu, which experts have said is the best remedy available for the swine flu.

“We have a little more than we normally care this time of year,” said CVS Pharmacist Scott Griffin.

At Walgreens, pharmacy staff member Mark Halpin said the pharmacy had a couple dozen doses in stock.

Williamson echoed the WHO’s warning to take precautions and urged people to wash their hands.

“(Washing your hands) is the single most important thing you can do,” Williamson said.

Williamson also told Alabamians to stay at home and contact their physician if they experienced cough, fever or muscle aches.