28 April 2009

louisiana department of health and hospitals sec'y alan levine issues swine flu directives to state employees

Dear State of Louisiana Employees:

By now, you have seen media coverage or heard of the spread of swine flu in the United States and several other countries. Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. It occasionally spreads to humans, although human to human transmission has been rare until now.

The Department of Health and Hospitals is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and other partners to ensure we are conducting appropriate surveillance to detect any cases in Louisiana early so we can respond quickly if we have an outbreak.

As we seek to prevent the spread of this virus in our state, you and your families, just like all other Louisianans, can be our partner in this effort. There are everyday actions you can take to protect yourselves and your families, while at the same time helping to prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza.

1. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

2. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

3. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick, stay home. Limit contact with others.

4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because germs can spread that way.

5. If you or anyone in your family feels sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home and away from other people. Do not send your children to school if they display flu-like symptoms. Symptoms may include: high fever, body aches, headaches, coughing, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and chills.

If you live in an area where swine flu infections develop, or if you are exposed to someone who has traveled to such an area, and if you become ill with influenza-like symptoms, you should contact your physician immediately. Your doctor will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

DHH has notified hospitals and physicians through the state’s Health Alert Network and activated its statewide surveillance system of sentinel physicians—about 35 private doctors who volunteer to serve as a ‘front line’ of detection to assist in any public health or infectious disease investigation.

The department has shipped 30,000 specimen collection kits to be available to sentinel physicians, and will have specimens tested for infection as needed. Should cases arise in Louisiana, the state has a plan for antiviral treatment that will be directed by CDC guidance.

The Department is also working closely with the Louisiana Hospital Association, Louisiana Pharmacists Association, faith-based organizations, and many others to make sure you are properly informed and cared for. We’ve also recommended that all schools across the state monitor absences and illness of their students and report any problems to the DHH Office of Public Health.

If Louisiana begins to see a significant number of cases, you may be called on to assist the State in emergency operations. Keeping ourselves and our families safe is vital at this critical time. For regular updates, I encourage you to visit www.flula.com, our DHH site for swine flu information.

Aggressive prevention is the best thing to keep you and your loved ones well. Please heed the recommended steps and stay tuned for additional updates.