BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - State health officials are preparing for the possibility of an outbreak of swine flu in Mississippi. U.S. officials confirmed the spread of swine flu across the nation Monday. World health officials fear it might be the start of a pandemic, and Mississippi is taking action.
State Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Mary Currier said, "Nobody has a crystal ball. We don't know how much it will spread. We're hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst."
Dr. Currier said they are getting daily briefings from the Centers for Disease Control.
"This is not a strain of flu we've seen in humans before. Absolutely. It's a new strain of influenza virus. It's a mixture of a North American swine flu, a European Swine flu and an Avian influenza. So, it looks like it started out in birds and mixed up in pigs, and now it's gone to humans and it's being transmitted from person to person in humans."
Swine flu has been detected in a total of 45 people in California, Texas, Kansas Ohio, and New York. Twenty of those cases are in one New York City school where kids just returned from a trip to Mexico.
Meanwhile in Mexico, there is an outbreak estimated at about 1600. Officials say 149 people there have died.
Here on the coast, the swine flu was a hot topic at the Mississippi All Hazards Preparedness Conference at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi. The Director of the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security, J.W. Ledbetter, said they are making sure people are prepared, just in case the swine flu turns up in our state.
"Part of our mission is to keep this state safe. When you get a pandemic like this, it threatens everything from our basic defense to the people's welfare. That's part of our mission."
Health officials in Mississippi are now waiting for new shipments of anti-virals to add to the current stock piles. They say Mississippi already has 300,000 Tamiflu doses on hand.
As far as prevention, Ledbetter said at this point, the advice to the public is simple.
"Wash your hands several times a day. Wash your food. Stay away from people you know to be sick. Monitor where you go and who you are around."
It's especially important to wash your hands before eating. Also, make sure you avoid touching your eyes and mouth.
The most common symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and respiratory issues like coughing. Some people also experience sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.