About Chelyen Davis:
Chelyen Davis is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
Latest from the Health Department on swine flu
The Virginia Department of Health held its second phone briefing this afternoon. Featured were Dr. Diane Helentjaris, acting director of the office of epidemiology; Jeff Lake, deputy commissioner for community health services; and Bob Mauskapf, director of operation, planning and logistics. Some highlights were:
* As of 1 p.m. today, there were still no confirmed cases of the virus in Virginia.
* Beginning tomorrow morning, the department will operate a call center for the public to ask swine flu questions. The toll-free number is 877/ASKVDH3. The center will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday. The department is committed to operating the center for two days to see if people use it. “There is an increasing interest in this issue on the part of the public,” Lake said.
* VDH this morning received a shipment of antivirals from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The shipment of 144,000 courses of medicine is about half of what will be received. The department already had a stock of 770,000 courses. The department also received a shipment of masks, respirators, face shields, gowns and gloves for health-care workers.
* There are no plans to ask for the cancellation of any public events, including the NASCAR race in Henrico County or the Ladies Professional Golf Association golf tournament in Williamsburg this weekend.
* Officials are still learning about the virus. So far, it appears most like seasonal flu in the way it is behaving. “You’re likely to be contagious the day become you become symptomatic and for seven days afterwards,” Helentjaris said. The disease appears to have an incubation period of 2 to 4 days between exposure and the appearance of symptoms.
* Wearing a surgical mask in public is not recommended for now. “They may be more appropriate when there are confirmed cases. It’s not necessarily as protective as it might look,” Helentjaris said.
* The virus is sensitive to the antivirals Tamiflu and Relenza, though they do not "cure" the disease. “They can be expected to possibly shorten the duration that you are sick with symptoms by one day on average and decrease the severity of symptoms,” Helentjaris said.
* When the state’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services receives a suspect sample from a local doctor or lab, it tests the sample to see if it is an influenza A virus that can’t be typed. If it is, it is sent to the CDC to see if it is swine flu. Soon the state lab will have the material needed to do the confirmatory testing itself.
The latest on the swine flu investigation is HERE at the CDC site.