The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today that it has expanded the hours of operation for its swine influenza toll-free hotline. The hotline will now be open from 8 am till 8 pm Monday through Friday. The toll-free number is 1-866-278-7134.
Currently, no cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have yet been confirmed in Oklahoma.
Many hotline callers have asked about medicines to treat swine flu. Two antiviral drugs are available by prescription, Tamiflu and Relenza. They may make the illness milder and prevent serious flu complications, however, public health officials caution that persons should not request that their physician prescribe these drugs to take as a precaution or keep at home “just in case” they develop flu symptoms. The drugs should only be prescribed for those with life-threatening complications from the flu. Otherwise, overuse could result in limited supplies for those who need it most. In addition, overuse could lead to flu viruses becoming resistant to the drugs.
Some callers are also questioning the potential for school closures. Public health officials advise that school closures should not be considered until there are confirmed cases of swine influenza in the state. Faculty and students should continue to practice general health precautions and stay home if they are ill.
Health officials advise that all Oklahomans should be practicing the following recommendations to prevent the spread of flu:
- Wash hands often to protect yourself from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; germs are often spread when a person touches a contaminated object and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home from work, school, and running errands. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Contact your physician if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Some antiviral drugs may be used to treat persons who become ill with swine influenza.
Health officials also suggest that in the event the swine influenza A (H1N1) outbreak becomes more serious, persons should start now to be prepared. Store a supply of food and water. Have two weeks of your regular prescription drugs at home. Keep health supplies on hand, including pain relievers and cold medicines.
Additional information on swine influenza is available by visiting the OSDH Web site at www.health.ok.gov and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swine flu Web site at www.cdc.gov/swineflu, or by calling your local county health department.