As top public health leaders announced the nation’s first death in the current Ebola outbreak, a batch of 3,000 letters were going out Wednesday, Oct. 8, to physicians in Shelby County.
The letters are a reminder to physicians about the basic information on Ebola and the importance of getting “a good solid travel history,” said Shelby County Health Department director Yvonne Madlock.
The Memphis and Shelby County Health Department is in talks with the Memphis International Airport about setting up a system to identify flyers with flu-like symptoms.
No one in Shelby County or Tennessee had been diagnosed with swine flu as of Tuesday afternoon, but geography is “almost irrelevant at this point in time,” said Dr. Helen Morrow, the chief medical officer for the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department.
Specific measures and procedures had not been determined.
“That is up to the airport authority, but it would require what they might need to do as far as screening with any passengers or what to recommend to somebody who either presents ill or gets off the plane ill,” Dr. Morrow said. “This is an ongoing discussion at this point in time.”
She said that with air travel people can “go from continent to continent in a matter of hours.” The health department is not talking with authorities for other modes of transportation, such as buses or trains, Morrow said.
A total of 64 cases of swine flu had been confirmed in the United States, according a statement issued Tuesday morning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cases were in California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas.
The local health department is working closely with the Sentinel Provider Network, composed of physicians and hospitals in a surveillance program to identify any cases of the new flu. The flu is resistant to this year’s flu vaccine and has caused global concerns about a pandemic.
The local health department is also in daily communication with the CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health. It has set up an information line about swine flu information that can be accessed by dialing 544-6969.
The local health department is also in the process of having fact sheets translated into Spanish and working closely with Hispanic media in the public education campaign.
Morrow stressed common sense preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing. Swine flu cannot be contracted by eating pork.
“Any of you who are planning to attend the Memphis in May festival, enjoy yourself,” she said. “Bring me back a barbecue sandwich, please.”...