Chicago officials: Just a matter of time

No reported swine flu in Ill. so far
April 27, 2009 9:05:24 PM PDT
No cases of swine flu have turned up in Illinois, but health officials expect they will.VIDEO: Swine flu outbreak triggers travel alert
VIDEO:Chicago officials prepare for possible cases
VIDEO: Pilsen community takes precautions
AP INTERACTIVE: More cases of swine flu around the world
STORY: WHO raises global alert level on swine flu
STORY: No cases reported in Illinois
STORY: What you need to know about swine flu
VIDEO: Chicago public health commissioner Dr. Terry Mason helps us sort it all out.

Swine flu outbreak triggers travel alert

The outbreak triggered a travel alert by the U.S. State Department.

Americans are urged to avoid all non-essential travel to Mexico. The alert is in effect until July 27th.

They are stars in their country, but Mexican soccer players are not immune to the concerns about the swine flu. Some arrived for Wednesday's game with the Chicago Fire wearing facemasks. They played Sunday night's game in Mexico City in an empty stadium. Fans had to stay home and watch on TV because of restrictions as a result of the flu.

"It is difficult, because, you know, we love the game and we love, of course, the people in the stadium," said Pavel Pardo, soccer player.

The flu has shut down normal activities in Mexico. Government leaders hope to keep it from spreading farther. And while they are not restricting travel at this point, one woman was glad to come home after spending the last six weeks in Mexico City. She says people are very concerned. Everything was shut down. The museums, schools, stores, everything was closed.

The U.S. State Department is urging Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to Mexico for the next three months.

"We want the public to be mindful of potential health risks to others and seriously heed the advice of medical professionals," said Brett Sturgeon, Customs and Border Protection spokesperson.

Some travelers returning from Cancun on Monday night say they noticed no problems and had no concerns while they were there.

"There was a great deal of talk on BBC World News and CNN World News, and what you walked away with was that you were going to have to go through a gauntlet walking through the airport," said Dave Weaver, on his way back from Mexico.

But when asked how it was actually, he said, "Just like normal."

Chicago officials prepare for possible cases

Public health officials say it's only a matter of time before Illinois gets its first case of the swine flu.

Public health officials say it's only a matter of time before swine flu cases appear in Chicago. Right now they are preparing to detect and treat those cases.

Prevention may indeed be the best medicine. But preventing the swine flu from making its way to Illinois and the Chicago area may be impossible.

In fact, one doctor ABC7 spoke with on Monday night predicts cases of the swine flu in our area will be confirmed within the next two days.

Security guards are now the first line of defense against the swine flu at the University of Chicago Comer's Children's Hospital.

As of Monday, everyone entering U. of C. hospitals is now required to use liquid sanitizer to disinfect their hands.

There've been no cases there or at Stroger Hospital. But two people were tested at Stroger over the weekend suspected of having swine flu. They came back negative.

Hospital officials decided on Monday anyone with flu-like symptoms will be separated from other patients.

"They will be triaged to an air born isolation room, a room that has special ventilation, to protect all of the other patients and to protect the health care workers," said Dr. Sharon Welbel, Stroger Hospital, infectious disease.

Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital is also on alert for patients who may have swine flu. But there have been no cases here so far.

Statewide, health officials say seven people have been tested for swine flu, all negative. But they're preparing as if it will be here soon, using procedures that were developed for the potential avian flu outbreaks several years ago.

"I have no doubt that we will have some cases of swine flu here in the city of Chicago," said Dr. Terry Mason, Chicago Dept. of Public Health.

The Department of Homeland Security is now warning Americans about a possible pandemic. Such strong words bring back fears of a repeat of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed more than 20 million people worldwide.

"My hope is that this is all blown out of proportion. Fortunately, the last swine flu outbreak was. Some of us may remember Gerry Gord getting immunized on TV," said Dr. Kenneth Alexander, infectious disease specialist.

In 1976, Former President Gerald Ford mounted a national immunization campaign after a small outbreak of swine flu. That did not turn into a pandemic.

Pilsen community takes precautions

Chicago's Pilsen community is home to many Mexican Americans. There, one clinic and one school are taking extra measures to ensure that should the swine flu come to the Chicago area they already have a handle on it.

Chicago has a huge Mexican population that travels frequently to Mexico. The Pilsen community is taking precautions to deal with the possibility of the swine flu showing up in their neighborhood.

Alivio Medical Center is taking little for granted when it comes to dealing with the swine flu. Patients pack the clinic with questions about the virus. They are greeted by staff members wearing masks and handing out protection and information about the symptoms.

"I'm just concerned somebody will come in...because my immune system is low," said Yesenia Diaz.

"It's all over the news about Mexico and all over the place and I am concerned," said Cynthia Marinn.

Cynthia Marinn says her family is afraid to travel to Mexico.

"It's going to take a while for us to even find out if it is the swine flu or any other flu," said Dr. Abdul Bhurgri, Alivio Medical Center.

The doctor recommends covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throwing away the tissue, washing your hands often. He also said to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread that way.

Other doctors at the clinic are helping patients learn about this strain of flue. Experts say they are concerned about children in school because they tend to share everything.

"They have to go to the store to Sam's club and buy a major supply of wipes, Clorox wipes," said Tepesa Fraga, Orozco School.

At Orozco School in in Pilsen, school officials are taking precautions and informing children and parents about the swine flu.

"How fast and how quickly it's going to spread, we already know it's going to spread pretty quickly," said Dr. Bhurgri.

"We should not panic. This is something we can control. We're going to get the information out," said Ald. Dan Solis, 25th Ward.

The symptoms are fever, cough, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. It is important to avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick, the Centers for Disease Control recommends you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.


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