City flu task force activated

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

While health officials around the world evaluate the growing number of swine flu cases, officials in Clovis are planning for the possibility of an outbreak.

As of Thursday, state health officials had yet to confirm what they termed to probable swine flu cases — one each in Valencia and Santa Fe counties.

The number of U.S. cases rose to between 109 and 128 cases with one death, and a suspected 2,498 sickened in Mexico with 12 dead.

Ken Des Los Santos, director of the Local Emergency Planning Committee said his team has long been preparing for the possibility of pandemic flu and created a flu task force several years ago.

Officials from the community, Cannon Air Force Base, schools and other government entities are involved in working to streamline communication about the flu and be prepared if more is needed.

This week the task force was activated and has begun meeting to discuss swine flu concerns.

The task force is meeting 10 a.m. today in the city’s assembly room.

De Los Santos said officials have been meeting to ensure they are disseminating the same information. He also said they are focused on stressing preventative and precautionary tips.

“We are planning. We are not worried and of course we’re stressing to everyone not to panic,” he said.

“We’re stressing the stuff that’s already been put out there: hand washing, staying away from others when you’re sick, common sense types of things.”

In the event swine flu reaches the area, De Los Santos said task force members have plans in place to collaborate with state health officials to dispense medications and manage other aspects of an outbreak.

However the most important thing at this point, he said, is that there are no confirmed cases in the state and people need to put the situation into perspective.

“It hasn’t reached that level yet of being alarmed… every year there’s over 36,000 deaths from the flu… it hasn’t reached pandemic proportions that are confirmed,” he said.

Not every cough, sore throat or stomach ache is flu, he said, explaining there are numerous other viruses and seasonal issues that cause symptoms in people.

Some of the symptoms that set swine flu apart from normal ailments are dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea combined with standard cold or flu symptoms. When that combination presents itself, go see a doctor, he said.