Thursday Reads — H1N1 v. Iowa

So, how about that outbreak/epidemic/imminent pandemic?

Well, it’s become an Iowa story now, and about people, not just pigs. Gov. Chet Culver and our state’s top health experts gathered before cameras yesterday to trouble us while urging us not to be too troubled just yet.

And unless you’ve already sealed yourself up in a hilltop hideaway, you’ve probably heard some of what they had to say.

The Register: Iowa has 2 probable swine flu cases.

Probable is also the key word over at The Gazette. Radio Iowa has potential and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier focuses on the fact that a local is among 159 cases being tested for H1N1 or Swine Flu or New Pandemic or whatever.

Now that it’s here, health offiicials say it will spread. But officials say plans are in place, supplies are rolling in and neither of the “probable” cases required hospitalization.

Still, once the cases are confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control, state officials will declare what they call a “Public Health Disaster.” That sounds sort of alarmy. The Register explains:

Gov. Chet Culver said more exact tests should be completed on the two cases by today. If either case is confirmed, he said, he would declare a public health disaster. That would allow for aggressive action to slow the spread of the disease, he said.

Such measures could include mandatory quarantines for infected patients, although state leaders said they hoped people would isolate themselves voluntarily. The measures also could include cancellation of group events, and the closing of schools where the disease appears.

Lots of coulds hanging around, making people jumpy.

So far, this looks a lot like the start of a normal flu season, and by “normal” I mean the annual outbreak that usually kills about 30,000 Americans and 250,000 to 500,000 worldwide. That’s a baseline to keep in perspective while lots of hype swirls around us.

Still, some people aren’t taking any chances. Radio Iowa reports on a Davenport firm, Kelly’s Medical Supply Company, that’s seen a run on surgical masks. I’ve been told I look very handsome in a surgical mask, so good news.

To the west, the Omaha World-Herald says local businesses have plans on place to deal with a possible health emergency.

So this could be something, or it could be less than something, or it could be nothing to worry about. Could be that we’ll be hearing a lot about this for quite a while.

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