Swine flu case numbers climb statewide

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By Angye Morrison

The Florida Department of Health announced today that Okaloosa County now has a probable case of swine flu, and the cases in Miami-Dade now total four.

According to the release, there are now 22 probable cases throughout the sate. Alachua, Flagler, Lee, Indian River, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Seminole and Clay counties all have one case each, while Broward County has three. Hillsborough County has six probable cases.

Florida still has only two confirmed cases, two in Lee County. Broward, Orange and Pinellas each have one confirmed case.

State Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros has declared a statewide public health emergency, and is urging residents to seek immediate medical care if flu-like symptoms manifest. The surgeon general also warns parents that if children are sick, particularly if they exhibit flu-like symptoms, they should be seen by a doctor immediately and kept at home.

There are 226 confirmed cases of novel influenza (H1N1) in the U.S., with two deaths, a 23-month-old, and a woman in Texas, who died earlier this week after she was diagnosed with swine flu.

H1N1 novel influenza, also known as swine flu, is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. H1N1 is a certain kind of influenza that can cause infection in humans.

The symptoms are similar to seasonal flu: fever (above 100 degrees Fahrenheit), cough, sore throat, stuffy nose and, in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.

H1N1 influenza is spread when a person with flu coughs or sneezes, or by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

What can you do to protect yourself from getting sick?

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze. Throw the used tissue in the waste basket.

• If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve.

• Clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible.

• Stay healthy: Eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep and exercise.

If you become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat and stuffy nose, you should call your health care provider to determine if you need influenza testing or treatment, and stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

The state has set up a toll-free infomation line for the H1N1 virus, 1-800-775-8039.

CDC guidelines are available on the Department of Health's Web site, www.doh.state.fl.us.