Metro officials urge calm, caution over swine flu

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 4:24pm
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Dr. Bill Paul, director of Metro's Health Department, says the symptoms of swine flu have not been much different than regular flu. Jude Ferrara/The City Paper

Officials on Thursday urged caution in response to the news of a confirmed swine flu case in Nashville, but also asked the public to remain calm.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Lentz Public Health Center, officials from Metro, including Mayor Karl Dean stressed that this particular strain of flu is both preventable and treatable.

Dean said that the presence of the H1N1 virus in Nashville was not unexpected and that emergency plans were already in place before news of the first infected patient broke. Additionally, he said that a response group had already convened.

Wednesday, Gov. Phil Bredesen confirmed that a Harding Academy student from Williamson County had contracted the disease, but was recovering. The academy will remained closed through next week, and an art event schedule there this weekend has been cancelled.

As for the infected child, Dr. Bill Paul, Metro’s public health director, said that his office is working with Harding Academy to determine with whom the child came into contact. And while he said that he would be surprised if there were not subsequent cases reported, he echoed Dean’s comments about the disease’s treatment pointing out that the infected child stayed home when illness set in, got better and is now doing fine.

The symptoms had not been noticeably different from the standard flu virus. Dr. Paul also noted that the child had not traveled to Mexico, where most of the cases have been documented.

Director of Metro Schools Jesse Register also spoke at the press conference, saying the district is doing all it can to monitor the situation.

Register encouraged sick students to stay home, adding that if any suspected flu case be reported within Metro Schools, he and his staff will work with Dr. Paul and other Metro officials to determine the number of cases and plan an appropriate response.

In a related announcement, the Adventure Science Center will host a public forum to discuss the swine flu epidemic on Friday at 6:30 p.m. On hand for the forum will be medical experts, who will answer questions and discuss the outbreak.

Middle Tennessee State microbiology professor Dr. Steven Wright, director of the Vanderbilt program for vaccine services, Dr. James Crowe and Metro Nashville Public Schools student health liaison Cel Franklin will give a brief presentation before answering questions.

The mayor urged the public to take precautions and pointed them to www.health.nashville.gov for more information. A community information line has been set up with daily updates at 340-7775.