Saturday, 15 June 2024

Governor declares state of emergency in response to swine flu outbreak

SACRAMENTO – Amidst rising concerns about a swine flu pandemic, on Tuesday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for California.

 

This declaration facilitates coordination between local public health offices and the California Emergency Management Agency.

 

There are currently 64 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu nationwide and 10 in California, according to the Centers for Disease Control. None have been reported in Lake or Mendocino counties.

 

The proclamation is meant to speed up government response by ordering all state agencies and departments to utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities to assist the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the State Emergency Plan as coordinated by the California Emergency Management Agency.

 

DPH and Emergency Medical Services Authority also are ordered to enter into any and all necessary contracts for providing services, materials, personnel and equipment to supplement extraordinary preventive measures being taken across the state. At the same time, noncompetitive bid contracts for services, material, personnel and equipment needed to respond to this outbreak have been suspended and select certification requirements for public health laboratories to help in the state’s expansion of our testing capabilities have been waived.

 

On Tuesday, California also became the first state in the nation to do its own confirmatory testing for this strain of swine flu without having to send samples to the Centers for Disease Control, which will greatly speed up detection efforts in California.

 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) reported that it is monitoring and responding to the current swine flu outbreak in conjunction with federal and state agencies.

 

“It is important to understand that there are no reports of swine flu in pigs in California, or the United States, at this time,” said California State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer. “Our monitoring program is aimed at detecting the illness early in pigs. It also is important to recognize that swine flu is not a threat to the food supply. According to the Center for Disease Control, you cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe.”

 

CDFA stated that its top priority is to test any pigs that are linked to a human swine flu case or are showing signs of a respiratory disease.

 

The agency’s veterinarians are working closely with public health officials and to date no such human links have been established. Similarly, there have been no swine samples submitted for testing due to respiratory disease. In comparison to many states, California is a relatively small pork producer with fewer than 100,000 animals, ranking 28th in the country.

 

CDFA’s second key objective is to reduce apprehension related to swine health. CDFA currently is focusing on communication and outreach with the California Department of Public Health by sending material to: Future Farmers of America; Grange members; 4-H groups; fair managers; animal control directors; custom slaughter plants; anyone who has submitted a swine sample to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in the past year; agricultural colleges and universities; the California Veterinary Medical Board; the California Veterinary Medical Association; accredited veterinarians; sales yards; and feed stores.

 

CDFA veterinarians are also visiting all known swine farms to drop off swine flu information, look into the general health of herds and test any pigs showing signs of respiratory disease. The veterinarians also will monitor the check-in for swine at fairs around the state to provide general information and examine and test any pigs with a history of respiratory disease. Pigs determined to be sick will not be allowed to stay at the fair.

 

The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory will test all samples from swine submitted to them for swine influenza at no charge to the owner. As of today there have been no recent submissions. Meat and poultry Inspectors regularly inspect California licensed swine processing facilities and will continue to monitor for any signs of respiratory disease. To date, there have been no concerns reported.

 

Local health officials remind individuals to take normal precautions that assist in preventing the spread of flu, including covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands often with soap and water, and, most importantly, staying home from work or school and avoid public gatherings if you are sick.

 

Updated information about swine influenza can be found at the following Web sites: California Department of Public Health, www.cdph.ca.gov, and the Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/flu/swine.

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