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County preparing for possible swine flu outbreak
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The Bryan County Commission discussed plans Tuesday to handle a swine flu outbreak if it were to hit Bryan County.

Individuals from the local health department and emergency management said they are ready for such an occurrence.

"There is a tremendous amount of communication going on right now between the county and public health agencies," Commissioner Rick Gardner said. "The public needs to understand we’re taking a pro-active stance. We’re not just sitting around waiting for something to happen."

Swine Influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Public health officials have determined the current strain of swine flu virus spreads from human to human and can cause illness.

There have been over 100 cases reported of humans with swine flu and nearly 300 schools closed in communities across the country. Cases now are confirmed in New York, Texas, California, South Carolina, Kansas, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Maine, Colorado, Georgia and Minnesota. As of Tuesday, the Georgia Division of Public Health has confirmed four cases of swine flu in Georgia. The four cases are from Troup, Dekalb, Cobb and Henry Counties.

According to the Coastal Health District website, "The World Health Organization has raised its Pandemic Alert Level to Phase 5 (out of 6). This phase is generally a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and the time to prepare is now."

Gina Allen, with the Bryan County Health Department, said the swine flu has the same symptoms of the regular flu and spreads the same way. She also said you can’t contract the virus from eating pork and the flu seems to be dying down a bit.

"Things are looking good," Allen said. "A large part of the panic is subsiding, although we have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We’re a lot more comfortable than we were last week."

But the Pandemic Alert Level has not been dropped from Phase 5, indicating it is still considered a threat throughout the nation.

Two antivirals are used to prevent this strain. Bryan Health Department Director Skip Youmans said two pallets of the antivirus Tamiflu have arrived at Memorial Hospital, to be distributed throughout the region. Bryan Emergency Services Director Jim Anderson said this equates to 400,000 doses.

Part of the local plan is for first responders, as well as their families and volunteers, to get vaccinated. Youmans said "we’ve been over in our plan of mass distribution if it becomes necessary."

Allen said the county is trying already to find volunteers "and bus drivers for mass transit of people and things like that." Meanwhile, Youmans said information about the swine flu will soon be available at the libraries and health departments on both ends of the county.

So far U.S. cases are mostly fairly mild with one death, a Mexican toddler who visited Texas with his family - unlike in Mexico where more than 160 suspected deaths have been reported. Most of the U.S. cases so far haven’t needed a doctor’s care, officials said. For more information, visit or

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