SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director, announced there are currently nine probable cases of H1N1 flu in Illinois: five in Cook County (all within the Chicago city limits), one in DuPage County, two in Kane County and one in Lake County. A probable case means the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has tested a specimen and found that it is positive for influenza A, but it could not be subtyped. The Department has shipped three of the nine probable cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to perform final testing to confirm if the cases are positive for H1N1 flu, and the other six will be shipped later day.
The federal government has declared a health emergency and identified a potential threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Illinois. A Gubernatorial Proclamation issued by Governor Pat Quinn Tuesday allows for the mobilization of state assets, as the Governor deems necessary, to aid in the distribution of medical supplies and other actions needed to protect public’s health and safety.
“Our goals during this public health emergency are to quickly identify cases of H1N1 flu and reduce the spread and severity of the illness,” said Dr. Arnold. “The Governor’s proclamation is not cause for alarm but simply allows us to be proactive and distribute medicines and medical supplies from the state and federal stockpiles to hospitals and local health departments across the state so they are available when they are needed.”
U.S. Health and Homeland Security officials have released a quarter of the country's Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to be shipped to every state. Illinois is expecting to receive its shipment sometime this week. The SNS contains large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public in the event of a public health emergency, such as the H1N1 flu outbreak. Included in the SNS are antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, as well as surgical masks, gloves and gowns.
Illinois has developed plans to receive and distribute SNS medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible. Once the SNS reaches Illinois, approximately 200 Illinois National Guard members will repackage the supplies into smaller shipments and Illinois Department of Transportation trucks will distribute those shipments to state facilities in all areas of Illinois outside the City of Chicago. Chicago has its own stockpile and receives its own SNS from the federal government due to the size of population.
Once the smaller shipments reach state facilities across Illinois, they will then be distributed to local health departments and hospitals to be dispensed as needed. The Department will issue guidance on how medicine will be given out when it’s needed.
“The H1N1 flu situation is rapidly evolving and we fully expect to see cases in Illinois. The Department and its public health partners, including local health departments, hospitals and emergency departments, are on full alert to watch for possible cases. We are prepared to act swiftly to assure early detection and to respond in the event a case or cases are identified to limit its spread,” said Dr. Arnold.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) continues to closely monitor the developing situation and is taking steps to ensure response plans can be activated quickly if necessary. In addition to coordinating closely with Dr. Arnold, IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez, III has participated in several situation briefings with the Department of Homeland Security. IEMA alerted state agency liaisons to the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) of the developing situation over the weekend, and on Monday afternoon the liaisons met to discuss potential response actions. State emergency management officials are also in contact with local emergency management agencies throughout the state to make them aware of developments and ensure that they are prepared to deal with a potential flu outbreak in Illinois.
Dr. Arnold recommends people who have flu-like symptoms, fever with a cough or sore throat, should stay home for seven days after the onset of illness or at least 24 hours after the symptoms go away, whichever is longer. People with symptoms who wish to seek medical care should contact their health care provider by phone before going to a clinic, physician’s office or hospital. If someone is having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, or are believed to be severely ill, they should seek immediate medical attention.
Dr. Arnold said the public should follow some common sense precautions to avoid getting sick or, if sick, infecting others:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your arm.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water – especially after you cough and sneeze. You can also use alcohol-based hand cleaners.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth – that’s how germs are spread.
• If you get sick – stay home from work or school and limit your contact with other people to avoid infecting them. Parents should follow these same recommendations for their children.
The Department will continually update information on H1N1 flu on its Web site at www.idph.state.il.us and also the www.ready.illinois.gov Web site.