Barnwell County has not seen swine flu cases yet

Most of the media-powered hysteria surrounding H1N1 - also known as the Swine flu - has lost its virulency since dominating the headlines last week.

The new influenza strain - which burst out of Mexico and spread across the world - was transmitted from pigs and contains genetic material from past pig, bird and human viruses.

It is suspected in the death of about 150 people in Mexico, but so far only one U.S. fatality has been reported - a two-year old Mexican boy in Texas.

At press time, there were 16 confirmed cases in South Carolina; 15 in Newberry County and one in Laurens County, said Roger Riley, the Barnwell County Emergency Director.

There are also 12 probable cases across the Palmetto State in Anderson, Charleston, Fairfield, Laurens, Greenville and Newberry counties, he said.

"The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Web site is the best place to get information - it's constantly being updated and the information changes daily," said Riley.

In Barnwell County, Riley said he has not had many calls about the virus, but he wants people to be aware - and most of all prepared - but not to panic.

Riley said information from the Center for Disease Control and other sources is now indicating that an H1N1 outbreak will be mild in spring.
The theory is it doesn't transmit as well in high temperatures.

U.S. Health Secretary Kathy announced May 5 that the virus in the U.S. could be a milder form than the one in Mexico, according to the Associated Press.

However, flu officials surmise the flu will come back strong next fall and during the winter next year, Riley said.

"Be prepared for next year - but don't panic," said Riley. "The best protection is preparation."

Symptoms of H1N1 are high fever, cough and sore throat, said Riley.

The best defense against catching H1N1 is simple - wash your hands, said Riley.

"Make sure you get in the habit of washing your hands now," said Riley. "Sing the whole ‘Happy Birthday' song while washing your hands - then you'll be sure they are clean."

Use warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

"And if you are sick, stay home," said Riley. "People don't do that sometimes - they sometimes take a sick day and will go out and pay a bill or something."

When infected, isolation is key, Riley said.

Humans have no natural immunity to the virus and it is possible the virus could mutate, said Riley.

"But we could have a vaccine by next fall," said Riley.

Currently, the virus is being treated with the antiviral Tamiflu, he said.

For the latest information on H1N1 go to www.scdhec or call 211.