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Swine Flu Flown?

Think again: Health officials say the number of local cases will rise for several weeks.



Though the fear surrounding a swine flu pandemic has all but died out, area health officials expect to see more cases in the coming weeks.

"Those numbers are going to go up," said Jim Shulman, deputy director of the state health department. "Our hope is that in the next four to six weeks, the numbers will go back down."

Last week, state representative Joe Towns called a meeting of representatives from the state and local health departments, MLGW, schools, the fire and police departments, and MATA to talk about the continued risk of the H1N1 virus.


"Because it's a new virus, nobody has any immunity to it, so we're all at risk," said Yvonne Madlock, executive director of the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department. "No one knew how lethal it would be ... or how fast it would spread."

At press time, the state had confirmed 54 cases in Tennessee.

Roughly 30,000 people die each year in the United States of the seasonal flu, many of those the very young or elderly.

"What we saw this year: The serious cases occurred in young adults, people in the prime of their lives," Madlock said.

The group also talked about the challenges associated with a pandemic, including safety and security. Under a pandemic, hospital demand would skyrocket, as would rates of absenteeism from work. In a worst-case scenario, food supplies could be interrupted, care for the chronically ill would suffer, and schools and daycares would be closed.

"I consider this one thus far as a test run," Madlock said. "We do not have a vaccine against it, so the best thing we can do is limit the spread by changing our behavior."

Because of porous national borders and global travel, "a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere," Madlock said.

Typically, pandemics move through communities in waves, with each wave lasting six to eight weeks. The waves are generally separated by several months, and the second wave is longer and much more intense than the first wave.

Madlock said people should keep a two-week supply of necessities — food, water, medicine — on hand for emergencies.

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