Missouri prepares for potential flu outbreak

Monday, April 27, 2009 | 6:53 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Missouri was preparing Monday for a possible swine flu outbreak, but so far, travelers coming in and out of the state weren't terribly concerned.

Gov. Jay Nixon said state health officials have been on high alert since Friday, when efforts to contain an outbreak in Mexico spurred concerns of a global flu epidemic.

Missouri — which has no confirmed cases of swine flu — has stockpiled enough anti-viral medicines to treat more than 600,000 cases of swine flu. It was due to receive more, Nixon said, after he directed state officials to request the state's share from the federal government.

Missouri is due to receive additional doses of medicine, 3 million surgical masks to protect against the spread of the virus, and 3 million specialized masks for medical workers.

Nixon said the state is working with local public health agencies and medical facilities to increase detection of any cases, and will mobilize in the event of an outbreak.

No additional precautions were being taken at St. Louis' Lambert Airport, where Mary and Mark Hemp of Springfield, Ill., were awaiting a flight to Jamaica.

The couple weren't happy that their flight would likely pick up passengers from Mexico, but said they're ready to go on vacation and would take precautions.

Al Fedoravicius, who arrived in St. Louis from Albuquerque, N.M., wasn't very concerned, noting that the "outbreak seems relatively confined to a certain area."

At Kansas City International Airport, many travelers said they were avoiding anyone who was coughing.

Some said they were worried after learning of the two cases of mild swine flu confirmed in neighboring Kansas.

"I realize there is a great potential for this to be very dangerous and that an airport might not be the safest place to be," said Jason Lehew, 27, of Emporia, Kan., who was traveling to Oakland, Calif., to see family. "There is no telling how fast it can spread. If I see someone coughing, I'm definitely going to steer clear."

Kumar Saripella, 29, a chemistry student at Kansas State University, had discussed swine flu with nearby passengers on his flight from Atlanta to Kansas City. He has vivid memories of having to go through rigorous security screenings for avian flu in 2001 when he traveled from India.

"There was just paranoia in the air then," he said. "I am not worried yet this time."

AP reporter Brian Charlton in Kansas City contributed to this report.

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