No swine flu cases reported in Wash. or North Idaho

President Barack Obama said Monday the threat of spreading swine flu infections is matter of concern but “not a cause for alarm.” The United States and other countries across the globe increased their vigilance as the World Health Organization said there are now 40 confirmed cases in the U.S.

That’s twice the number previously reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

State health officials say no cases of swine flu have been reported in Washington state. Public health officials in North Idaho likewise say there have been no cases diagnosed in Idaho’s five northern counties, but they’re working with health care providers, schools and governments to monitor the situation.

About 7,000 doses of antiviral medication are headed to North Idaho from the federal stockpile, the Panhandle Health District said in a news release Monday. They should arrive within a week.

Washington state epidemiologist Tony Marfin said Sunday that the state is stepping up its disease surveillance at clinics, hospitals and other testing sites to see whether the strain of virus blamed for dozens of deaths in Mexico has reached Washington state.

The state also will begin making daily, rather than weekly, surveillance reports to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Swine flu cases, deaths (clickable)

View H1N1 Swine Flu cases in a larger map

The U.S. declared a public-health emergency Sunday, although the strain of flu that has killed more than 100 people in Mexico has caused only mild illness in the U.S. and Canada.

Amid increasing worries about a possible global pandemic, Obama told a gathering of scientists that his administration’s Department of Health and Human Services “has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively.”

The acting head of the CDC said earlier Monday that people should be prepared for the problem to become more severe, and that it could involve “possibly deaths.” Dr. Richard Besser said officials were questioning people coming into the U.S. about how their health.

State health Secretary Mary Selecky said people making travel plans should check the CDC’s Web site for travel advisories, especially involving trips to Mexico.

The Idaho health district is asking the public to be aware of swine flu symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting, the release said. People with symptoms who have traveled recently to Mexico or been around anyone who has are advised to see a healthcare professional, the release said.

The virus travels through the air and spreads quickly. The health district offers these tips to help prevent spread and infection:

• Wash hands often and particularly after sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth;

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeve;

• Stay home if you’re sick to prevent transmission;

• Stay away from people who are sick.

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