The Illinois Department of Public Health is more than doubling its stockpile of antiviral drugs, even as it urges people not to panic about the swine flu outbreak in the state.
By the end of this week, the department expects to have 411,000 regimens of the antiviral drug Tamiflu and more than 211,000 regimens of Relenza, a similar drug, spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says.
A regimen is a series of doses given to a person with a viral infection. The department usually has 246,000 such regimens on hand.
About half of that stockpile of more then 600,000 regimens will be distributed to hospitals and clinics statewide, she says, while the department will hold on to the other half.
In addition, the department has activated its emergency operations center, Arnold says. That allows the agency to coordinate with the federal government, local agencies and hospitals. The department receives and analyzes all swine flu test results coming in from local health agencies.
Despite those measures, Arnold repeated that “there is no cause for alarm,” and that people should not panic.
Across the city and state, agencies are taking a variety of steps in response to news of at least nine probable cases of swine flu in the Chicago region.
Many agencies are simply reminding employees and residents to take common-sense measures such as washing hands regularly and covering coughs and sneezes. But others, like the state health department, are doing more.
The Chicago Transit Authority is briefing its employees on how to stay healthy and how to spot possible flu symptoms, a statement said. For now, the CTA is keeping to its regular schedule of deep-cleaning and disinfecting handrails, poles and seats on trains and buses every 14 days, officials say.
The Illinois State Board of Education has reminded schools to review and update the plans many made in 2006 to deal with a possible avian flu outbreak, spokesman Matt Vanover says. Those plans are still applicable, he says.
Schools with confirmed cases of swine flu should “strongly” consider shutting down temporarily, according to official guidance released today by the state Department of Public Health.
If children are sick with flu-like symptoms, they should stay home from school, according to the current state guidance.
Vanover says parents whose children are not sick, but who are worried about their children becoming infected at school, will have to make their own decisions about what’s best.
Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.