Island health officials take precautions against swine flu
Against a backdrop of newly confirmed cases of the potentially deadly swine flu, none of them on Martha's Vineyard but two in Massachusetts, Island health officials this week were on alert for any sign of infection.
Tim Walsh, Martha's Vineyard Hospital chief executive officer, said the hospital is taking appropriate precautions and is in close contact with state and federal health officials. The hospital has established procedures to allow patients to be quickly tested for flu infection and, if need be, hospitalized. "If we get anything, we move it along quickly to DPH (Massachusetts Department of Public Health) and CDC (Federal Centers for Disease Control)," he said.
In an email update yesterday to hospital physicians, nurses, and officials, David Caron, hospital pharmacist, said that two siblings from Lowell have tested positive for swine flu after traveling to Mexico. "The children from Lowell," he wrote, "are the first confirmed cases in New England. Health officials have not released the names or ages of the siblings, but said they are not hospitalized and are recovering."
In an earlier email, hospital infectious control nurse Donna Enos said the hospital is receiving constant updates from DPH and would keep everyone informed.
Ms. Enos wrote, "We are taking a very proactive stance and posting information on hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and what the symptoms are, as well as what the patients should do when registering for any illness that is suspect for flu."
At the town level
Local health agents are also providing information. At their regularly scheduled Tuesday selectmen's meeting, Oak Bluffs selectmen learned that health agent Shirley Fauteux is preparing a one-page fact sheet on swine flu for distribution at various public buildings throughout the town, including the post office and town hall.
Edgartown health agent Matt Poole this week posted swine flu health information on the town's web site (edgartown-ma.us/cms/).
In the school system
As was discovered in New York City last week, one of the front lines in identifying any outbreak is a community's school system.
Yesterday, Martha's Vineyard superintendent of public schools James Weiss said school officials are vigilant.
"Certainly all of our school nurses and principals have received information from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Health, alerting us to what to look for," said Mr. Weiss, "giving us sample letters and notifications, so we're ready, should anything happen."