Health officials say swine flu concerns are declining

Sunday, May 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 2:49 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 16, 2010

COLUMBIA – After an initial flurry of inquiries about swine flu, local health officials say things are starting to slow down.

When news first broke about swine flu, health officials say they received an increased number of phone calls asking questions about the H1N1 virus.

Genalee Alexander, a spokeswoman for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, said they had a nurse on call to respond to the influx.

"I know that nurse on call took quite a few calls last week, but that number has really tapered off this week," she said. "I think people know there is no need to panic."

Alexander said most of the people who called wanted to talk to the nurse about whether they could have the virus.

“A lot of people said, 'I have these symptoms, I’ve had it this long, I did or did not travel,' and they just wanted some sort of health care professional walking them through whether or not they have been exposed.”

Others, she said, just wanted more information about the virus.

"A lot of people last week just immediately picked up the phone and didn’t have a lot of answers to their questions,” she said.

The MU Student Health Center also received a good volume of phone calls regarding swine flu. David Dale, spokesman for the center, said lately that number has returned to being average.

"We have had some students who think they might have it, but most of the time students aren't even aware what the symptoms are," Dale said. "We’ve provided a link on our Web site to the CDC information about H1N1 so students can familiarize themselves with the symptoms."

The center is also trying to keep students in the know about the latest swine flu news and precautionary measures they can take to lower the chance of getting sick.

"We want our students and the community to be aware of swine flu and take the proper precautions, but we don’t want people getting overly alarmed," he said.

Gloria Crull, executive director of the Family Health Center, said swine flu hasn't really been an issue, possibly because people have been calling the Department of Public Health instead.

She said that when people came in with symptoms, they were treated as they normally would have been.

"When people are acutely ill, if they have flu-like symptoms, we screen for it like any other primary care provider," Crull said. "It was pretty much business as usual for us.”

Alexander said she does not think there is a large risk for Boone County.

"I really want to stress that no, we do not think Boone county residents need to panic. We don’t think anybody needs to panic. We just want people to be aware of the symptoms."


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