About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Update on swine flu

The Virginia Department of Health held its daily swine-flu phone briefing this afternoon. Dr. Mark Levine, deputy commissioner for emergency preparedness and response, was featured. Some highlights:

* Virginia still had no confirmed cases of swine flu, as of 2:30 p.m. today. 

* The department’s new call center opened today and answered 450 calls by 2:30 p.m. It will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. tomorrow. Callers have asked about swine flu’s symptoms, protections against it, useful medications, and whether they should travel, Levin said. The call center’s toll-free phone number is 877/ASKVDH3. 

* The supply of antivirals from commercial manufacturers to pharmacies is running smoothly. The state’s stockpile of antivirals, eventually 1 million courses, is for emergencies. A course is five days’ worth of medicine.

* The state’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services will be ready to do its own confirmatory testing on suspect samples on Monday. Samples are now going to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta, with 48 hours turn-around.

* Levin did not think that the government has overreacted to the potential threat from the virus. “It’s early to know exactly what this virus is going to look like in terms of its severity,” he said. “We’re preparing just in case it were to get worse. We don’t know it will. We want to be prepared just in case.”

*Local schools will have to make their own decision, based on guidance from the Department of Education, on whether to close. Science does not know if early school closure makes a difference on the progress of this disease, Levin said. “We are not aware of any schools that have closed because of prospective cases or concerns about this flu,” Levin said.