- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BALTIMORE — Health officials announced Monday that residents in Maryland, Virginia and the District should be prepared for an outbreak of swine flu, but they stressed that no confirmed cases of the disease have been reported.

“There probably will be a case in Maryland, eventually in the course of this, and that is what we know,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at a makeshift medical command and control center in Baltimore.

Area health agencies are hurrying to take steps to respond to any outbreak of the swine flu virus, which has killed almost 150 people in Mexico and infected thousands more around the world.

More than 40 mild cases of the virus were reported in the United States on Monday - doubling the number confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta on Sunday night. States with confirmed outbreaks include Kansas, California, Texas and New York.

In Virginia, Gov. Tim Kaine said he has declared a public health emergency and will be ensuring state officials have the tools they need to deal with any outbreak.

“We have been planning for a situation like this for many years,” said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat. Virginia has a stockpile of 770,000 courses of antiviral medication, he said, and will be receiving an additional 280,000 from the federal government within the next week.

Dr. Karen Remley, commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Health, said people who have traveled to Mexico within the past week but have not experienced symptoms are unlikely to develop swine flu.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said city officials are responding “aggressively and proactively” to combat the disease.

“We recognize that diseases do not respect state or national boundaries, and we are monitoring the situation closely,” he said.

Dr. Pierre Vigilance, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said residents who have recently acquired flulike symptoms should immediately contact health providers and take extra care over the next several days to make sure they do not infect others.

At least 149 people in Mexico, where the outbreak reportedly started, have died from the virus, while more than 2,000 people have been infected worldwide, including in Spain, Canada and New Zealand. No deaths have been reported in the United States.

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to seasonal flu and typically include fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, headaches, and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea.

While no cases of the virus have been confirmed in either Maryland, the District or Virginia, officials say the likelihood of an outbreak is high.

John M. Colmers, Maryland’s secretary of health and mental hygiene, said he didn’t think there was any doubt that there would be a case of swine flu in the state.

“What we don’t know is how extensive it will be and whether or not it will be as virulent as what we are seeing in Mexico,” he said.

Mr. Colmers said the state has a stockpile of 265,000 doses of antiviral medication and can tap into an additional 200,000 doses from a federal stockpile.

According to the CDC, antiviral medicines Tamiflu and Relenza are effective treatment once someone becomes sick, but there is no known vaccine that can prevent the swine flu strain.

Maryland health officials say only people who have traveled recently to an infected area and are experiencing flu-like symptoms or who have been in physical contact with an infected person should be tested.

“It’s a common-sense approach. If you have been to an infected area and have gotten sick, or you know someone who has been to an area, go see your doctor,” said Frances Phillips, deputy secretary of health and mental hygiene.

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