VAN WERT — Van Wert County Emergency Management Director Rick McCoy said the county has no confirmed swine flu cases, but he’s pretty sure it is in the county, or soon will be.
He said the health department and other officials he’s talked with believe the H1N1 virus is in the county based on the large number of flu cases occurring ahead of the normal peak. He said the experts think we may see a rapid increase in cases during the next two weeks as fall weather sets in.
“The virus loves this cold, damp weather,” he said. “That’s any flu.”
Van Wert County Health Department Emergency Response Coordinator Barb Hoffman said there is concern of an outbreak, regardless of the weather.
“I think that’s always a concern. There is a lot of illness out there now, and it is early for the influenza season,” she said.
McCoy told the Van Wert Rotary Club on Tuesday that the state is only testing possible cases from hospitals and “cluster” areas, not from physicians. Physicians can screen to see if the flu is type A or B, he said. H1N1 is type A, but the common flu can be too. Physicians are being counseled to assume type A is swine flu, because that’s likely the case and treatment is the same for common and swine flu.
“You’re going to be treated the same,” Hoffman agreed. “You really can’t be diagnosed until you have the confirmatory test they send down to the state.”
Hoffman and McCoy said the county is considering having a cluster designated in the county in an area of high illness.
“They’re looking at that,” Hoffman said. “There’s a lot of illness in one particular school” district.
She said “a lot” must mean more illness than would normally be expected, and it remains to be seen if that illness is due to flu-like symptoms or other reasons.
On Tuesday, Van Wert County Hospital announced it was restricting visitors to the hospital to those older than 14 years old and removing all reading material from waiting areas.
Health experts agree the best defense against the H1N1 and common flu viruses is good, old-fashioned hygiene, washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or elbow and avoiding contact with others if they or you are having flu-like symptoms.