STATE—While New Jersey had no confirmed cases of the swine flu as of Tuesday morning, state health officials identified five probable cases in people who had recently traveled to Mexico or California.
Officials declined to give details about the cases, but said that the patients were from several counties and had mild forms of the flu that did not require hospitalization.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) in 64 individuals in New York, California, Texas, Ohio and Kansas. In addition, hundreds of cases have been reported in Mexico.
“We recognize that swine flu will likely be an ongoing public health issue,” state health commissioner Heather Howard said. “Right now, I want to emphasize that the best form of prevention is to observe good health hygiene, including covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands frequently and staying home from school or work if you’re sick.”
Howard reminds everyone to take these precautions:
- Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues and dispose of them properly.
- Frequently wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- See your physician if illness continues.
The symptoms of swine flu are similar to seasonal flu and include fever, lack of appetite, coughing and fatigue. Some people have also reported having a sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
You cannot get swine flu from eating properly handled and properly cooked pork or pork products. The CDC issued outbreak notices to travelers to Mexico and United States, but there are no formal travel restrictions.
“We have asked New Jersey’s healthcare providers to continue to be on the lookout for influenza cases or outbreaks,” Howard said. “We have been in constant contact with our local health departments and hospitals and will continue to do so.”
The Department of Health has also alerted schools and childcare centers to be vigilant.
“As a readiness measure, we have reached out to schools and all child care facilities to ask them to be on the lookout for children exhibiting signs of influenza,” said Howard. “We are asking these facilities to send children home if they are showing signs of respiratory illness and fever. We are also reminding them to report suspected cases of swine influenza or outbreaks of any influenza-like illness to their local health department.” The Department is recommending that sick children remain at home until 24-48 hours after the symptoms end.
New Jersey purchased 800,000 doses of Tamiflu and other antiviral medications in 2006 and this week the state will be accepting another 300,000 doses from the Strategic National Stockpile. “We are pleased that three years ago we made the decision to begin preparing for a time when we may need these medications,’’ said Howard.
“It’s important for the general public to remain informed and know what steps they can take to protect themselves and their family,” Howard said. “We will continue to share information with our health care partners, hospitals, providers and the public.”