THIS IS AN EXERCISE: THIS IS NOT A REAL EVENT.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 11, 2008, 1 p.m.
Contact: Vermont Health Department
BURLINGTON – The Department of Health has confirmed that Vermont is the first state in the United States with confirmed cases of H5N1, the so-called bird flu.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, state officials said the Vermont Department of Health laboratory preliminarily confirmed the cases and had sent samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, for confirmation. Results should beknown within 24 hours.
“This is a time of concern for all Vermonters,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt. “We are here to tell you as much as we know about the status of a possible, limited human-to-human transmission of H5N1 in Vermont.”
A small number of patients were admitted overnight to seven Vermont hospitals with flu-like symptoms, including high fever and severe respiratory symptoms.
All are receiving treatment, Moffatt said.
The department is in the process of confirming the exact number of patients at Vermont hospitals.
“What we know so far is that Fletcher Allen Health Care has admitted 15 patients and six are on ventilators,” said Moffatt. “Grace Cottage Hospital has reported 10 patients with H5N1 and Copley Hospital has reported four cases. Again, patients are receiving proper care and treatment.”
The World Health Organization declared a “Phase 4” of an influenza pandemic early Wednesday morning after confirming a limited human-to-human transmission of the influenza A H5N1 in Romania.
The CDC quickly authorized the activation of the Strategic National Stockpile to begin distribution of critical medical supplies in preparation for a possible pandemic in the United States.
Treatment for H5N1 may include antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza and other forms of care.
While Vermont is the only state with confirmed cases of H5N1, there are reports of unconfirmed cases in northern New York and New Hampshire. There area also confirmed cases reported in Canada, with one confirmed death from the disease.
The CDC has placed restrictions on hospitals and emergency responders from transporting people with flu-like symptoms across state lines. Mutual restrictions apply between Vermont and Canada.
“We are coordinating with other state agencies and with health system partners to provide guidance on clinical management and infection control,” Moffatt said. “All the appropriate controls are in place and we watching the situation closely but are confident that we have the resources to deal with this health emergency.”
Moffatt said the Health Department is particularly concerned about individuals who have traveled to Romania within the last 10 days, or who have a temperature greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit or have been diagnosed with pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) or other severe respiratory illness.
If anyone has meets these criteria, they should contact their medical provider immediately, Moffatt said.
Likewise, people who have been in close contact – within 3 feet – with a person confirmed or suspected to have H5N1, should speak to their medical provider about being tested even if they don’t show symptoms. It is possible to be infected and capable of spreading the virus, even when not showing symptoms.
The illness is highly contagious and Vermonters can help protect themselves, their families and households from the H5N1 virus by:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
- Make sure to wash your hands before eating, or touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If caring for ill persons, wash hands after providing assistance.
- Always wash your hands after sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing or after touching used tissues or handkerchiefs.
- If hand washing is not possible, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve. Put used tissues in the trash.
- Don’t share items such as cigarettes, towels, lipstick, toys or anything else that might be contaminated with germs. Don’t share food, utensils or beverage containers with others.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Minimize your exposure to ill people as much as possible. During a flue pandemic, this may mean avoiding large social gatherings and events, such as concerts, movie theaters and sports venues.
For questions and more information, call the statewide 2-1-1 line or visit the Web site: www.healthvermont.gov.