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Local surveillance stepped up for swine flu

WILLMAR -- Local health authorities have stepped up their surveillance for possible cases of North American, or swine, influenza.

They're also urging old-fashioned prevention measures for the public: hand washing, covering coughs and staying home when ill.

"Those types of things are what we want people to be doing right now," Ann Stehn, director of Kandiyohi County Public Health, said today.

State and local officials emphasized today that no confirmed cases of North American flu have been reported yet in Minnesota. As of this afternoon, 40 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and "all have been mild," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.

"I don't think this is the time to panic," she said during a statewide teleconference briefing with media.

The local response has already started. Kandiyohi County's emergency response team met this morning to discuss the situation and share information.

"We've been planning for these kinds of things for a long time," Stehn said.

At local health care facilities, staff is geared up to be on the lookout for influenza-like illnesses, especially among anyone who has recently traveled to Mexico or to any of the states where North American flu has been reported.

If you have a history of recent travel and develop flu-like symptoms, call your health care provider, Lynfield said.

The federal government is shipping extra doses of the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza to Minnesota this week, Lynfield said. Guidelines for who should receive them are under development by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.