Local counties expect to see swine flu cases

April 27, 2009 7:03:15 PM PDT
Local health departments fully expect to confirm at least a couple of swine flu cases in the Bay Area soon, since there are so many people traveling to and from Mexico. Currently, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties are running tests on more than a dozen potential cases.

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"I spent the weekend worrying about it and we're doing everything necessary," says Dr. Mitch Katz from the San Francisco Health Department.

The San Francisco Health Department has set up a command center to coordinate a strategy and track the progression of the disease. Since Friday, all of the city's hospitals and clinics have been asked to test anyone who comes in with flu-like symptoms. The chief of the emergency room at San Francisco General showed ABC7 how nose swabs are taken for testing. The process is underway throughout the Bay Area.

At S.F. General 11 tests were conducted over the weekend. Two tested positive for the flu and have been sent on for further testing to determine if its swine flu or ordinary influenza.

San Francisco officials say they are well prepared to treat a swine flu outbreak.

"We have plenty of those anti-viral medications, there are lots in the pharmacies, we also have a stockpile in San Francisco," says Dr. Susan Ferniak from the San Francisco Health Department.

Dr. Ferniak says Bay Area county health officials have been meeting once a month for the past two years to prepare for a flu pandemic.

Last fall Alameda County conducted a pandemic drill as a part of an effort to avoid a repeat disaster. In 1918 the Oakland Municipal Auditorium became a temporary hospital during the Spanish flu pandemic. And in Santa Clara County last year, a senior center became a mass flu vaccination center so the health department could prepare for a real life medical emergency. Today they are on alert.

"Now with the large outbreak in Mexico and the number of people who have died, our level of concern has increased," says Dr. Marty Fenstersheib from the Santa Clara County Health Department.

Health officials say there is one bit of optimism. The swine flu cases in this country appear much milder than the strain killing people in Mexico.

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