Public health officials say Arizona has enough courses of antiviral medicines to respond to swine flu cases, even though the state’s stockpile of flu-treatment doses are lower than the recommended level.
Arizona, which so far has four confirmed swine flu cases, has estimated 258,000 treatment courses of antivirals would cover about 4 percent of the state’s population. Officials said Arizona has plenty of doses and pointed out that the treatment courses are for people who are extremely ill and aren’t intended as a way to prevent an infection.
”We hope that we won’t need to use it all, but we got it here just in case it’s necessary,” said Will Humble, interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
In addition to Arizona’s four confirmed cases, state health officials are awaiting test results in 52 more suspected cases that were sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maricopa, Coconino and Mohave counties were awaiting test results.
Humble said health officials, who had been calling for closures at schools where a student tested positive for the swine flu, are awaiting deeper analysis of the outbreak so they can decide whether they need to lift that recommendation.
”We are seeing some encouraging signs nationwide that this may not be as serious a virus as we had thought a few days ago,” Humble said, noting that a small proportion – 5 percent – of those who tested positive have been hospitalized.
The state was supplementing its 58,000 treatment courses with an estimated 200,000 from the federal government’s strategic reserve. The 200,000 figure represents a quarter of Arizona’s full allocation from the reserve.
The antiviral medicines have been sent or should be arriving soon at county public health offices and Indian Health Service locations throughout Arizona.
State and local health officials believe they will not need to request more from the national stockpile. Officials say not everyone with the flu will need the treatment. They anticipate a drop in illnesses as regular flu season ends and summer approaches.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that each state have enough antiviral medicine on hand to treat 25 percent of its population. But a survey by The Associated Press of all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that 29 states – including Arizona – were below that mark.
The four confirmed cases were found in school-age children in Maricopa County. The cases led to seven-day closures at three elementary schools, one in Phoenix and two in Chandler.
Public health officials in Arizona say it appears the swine flu that has spread across the nation in the past week isn’t any more severe than normal influenza.
One hundred forty-one swine flu cases have been reported in 19 U.S. states. The only reported death in the U.S. as a result of swine flu was a Mexican child who was visiting Texas with his family.
Health officials said people should treat the swine flu strain like any other flu – contact your personal doctor, and avoid spreading the virus by staying home and covering sneezes and coughs. Patients should seek additional medical help if fever persists or spikes, breathing is difficult or other severe symptoms develop.