Swine Flu

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As the number of confirmed swine flu cases rises across the country, Janey Pearl, Latino Outreach Coordinator for the Arizona Department of Health Services, discusses what is being done to prepare for an outbreak in our state.
Arizona Department of Health Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Jose Cárdenas
>> good evening, thank you for joining us.

Jose Cárdenas
>>> this week president Obama asked congress for more money to fight swine flu as a confirmed number of cases increased to more than 60 people in the united states in what doctors fear may be a pandemic. According to the world health organization, almost all of the cases of swine flu outside of Mexico are from travelers who recently visited the country. In Mexico schools are shut down until May 6th and more than 4 million masks have been given out to residents in Mexico city, here in Arizona the state is working with local hospitals and doctors to make sure patients that come in with flu like symptoms are tested. Joining me to talk about what Arizona is doing is Janey Pearl, public information officer and Latino outreach coordinator for the Arizona department of health services. Well come to "horizonte."

Janey Pearl
>> thank you. It's an honor to be here.

Jose Cárdenas
>> we heard the references to what is going on in Mexico, but the latest reports have this in many different countries. It's not necessarily tied specifically to Mexico, is it?

Janey Pearl
>> right. This is something that we're seeing in various different countries, in the united states we have cases, the numbers are increasing by the day. However, it's important to know the cases in the u.s. Out of all the cases so far everyone is fully recovered.

Jose Cárdenas
>> and I want to bring it home to Arizona, and then well talk about different aspects of this. What does this mean to Arizonans?

Janey Pearl
>> to Arizona right now, it means a couple things. First of all, we're concerned about cases in Arizona. We don't have any yet, but that could change any day. We're concerned about the people in Arizona. And also our community is concerned with our loved once in Mexico. Many of us have family and we're concerned about the situation there. Really the message is the same for both -- for both sides. Take standard precautions you would do with proper hygiene, with staying away from others, if you don't have to be in crowded areas, and also if you're feeling ill, stay home. After a few days if you're still feeling ill, get to the doctor.

Jose Cárdenas
>> you talked about concerns that people have. How is this manifesting itself?

Janey Pearl
>> basically one big way is through the media. We keep seeing these images, and we keep seeing people in Mexico with masks. And we see public places very empty.

Jose Cárdenas
>> especially when you have a city of 20 million people, the streets are empty.

Janey Pearl
>> exactly. But this is a real threat, it can be. We've prepared for pandemics. There have been pandemics in the past, and we work with local partners, national partners, international partners to deal with this, to make sure the public is safe.

Jose Cárdenas
>> what does this mean in terms of implementation of that plan, at least in the initial stages?

Janey Pearl
>> basically right now we're at the point that it's increased communication, increased coordination, sharing of resources, potentially additional resources coming in from other areas. It means stepping everything up to a higher level. We've been going at the department of health services constant communication with our county partners our hospitals, it's just daily communication.

Jose Cárdenas
>> what about the demand upon health services? Are you seeing a lot of people going into the hospitals and just worried because maybe they've been to Mexico recently?

Janey Pearl
>> right. We're seeing two things. One, we're seeing large number of people going to hospitals. That can be good and that can be bad. One thing is obvious if people are very, very ill, if they're facing emergencies, we want them to be at a hospital. However, if a lot of people who maybe think they were coughing a few days ago or maybe went to Mexico and feel ok but they want to get checked out, unfortunately those are the people that are cramming our system a little bit and making it harder for the hospitals to treat the real emergencies. So we ask if people are feeling maybe they just don't feel that well, maybe they might have been exposed, maybe they have one of the symptoms, runny nose, high fever, body aches, to go first to their primary care doctor to an urgent care center or a local clinic.

Jose Cárdenas
>>Is there any sense because Arizona is a border state people are perhaps overreacting to this concern?

Janey Pearl
>> I wouldn't say it's overreaction. We're all concerned about our safety. We're all concerned about our loved ones. So we're going to do what we think we need to be doing. It may that be we're not getting the proper information. Take those standard precautions. I know as a culture we like to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, or very close. And right now that's not necessarily recommended. As well as washing your hands all the time. It's something maybe we do right before we eat, but we don't realize how many times we're touching our face, our mouths. And obviously when we cough, that's the big way this is transmitted. When we cough we want to cover our cough with a tissue or our sleeve, so we don't sneeze on our hand and greet everybody.

Jose Cárdenas
>> are you seeing, for example, higher incidents of Latinos going into hospitals or emergency rooms because they've recently returned from Mexico, and they're symptom-free, but they want to get checked out?

Janey Pearl
>> we're seeing a large number of Latinos going to emergency rooms. I was on a call with the hospitals, and they were saying that the numbers of Latinos have increased dramatically. Especially in the border areas. There's not much determination as far as are these Latinos really sick, or just concerned. It seems right now it's mostly concerned people, obviously if people are sick we want them at the hospitals, if they're not sick, we want them at these urgent care centers at their doctors, at community health centers. But we know there's issues in the community that would stop people from going those other ways.

Jose Cárdenas
>> those issues might be --

Janey Pearl
>> issues of trust in the community, issues of whether or not they have health insurance.

Jose Cárdenas
>> and the trust would be because of immigration issues. Are you seeing in communities -- border communities, does that include Tucson in terms of perhaps a greater reaction to concerns?

Janey Pearl
>> well, we're working closely -- we have an office of border health, and we're working with the consulate in Mexico learning what is happening at the border. One of the most time consuming things about the process has been rumor control. We hear new rumors every couple hours, and we're trying to figure out if they're true or not. We've heard a lot of rumors about cases close to the boarder, and those are things we're working to squash the rumors to make sure people know what the actual threat is. But at the same time, finding out what additional precautions we can take.

Jose Cárdenas
>> you're dealing with Spanish language media. In one sense, they will have perhaps heightened the concerns simply because they're focused, Spanish language television, for example, has a lot of coverage of what's going on in Mexico. It's straightforward, truthful reporting, but the constant saturation, is that raising concerns to levels that are perhaps inappropriate?

Janey Pearl
>> if this gives you an example, my family is in guadalajara, and they said, you work at the health department, should we stay home, not go to school? I think the images coming from Mexico city are impacting the rest of Mexico. I've heard reports of people flying their relatives in from Mexico. But it's also impacting us here. What I told my family, the same thing I'm telling the public. The standard precautions people should take. However, it is something that is of concern. I know when I saw the public areas empty, that was an image itself.

Jose Cárdenas
>> what kind of efforts are you taking to have specific outreach?

Janey Pearl
>> we've talked with every branch of Latino media, we're working with Latino organizations, on a large media scale, we're doing everything we can to get the message out. The hotline, we made sure it's bilingual, our website has information in Spanish and English. But it's really something that as community members, it's really up to us to make sure the people in our circle and our organizations are families know information, because it's only a couple people doing this big job.

Jose Cárdenas
>> we do have the swine flu hotline on the screen. I'm not sure if we have shown the web address. (800) 352-3792

Janey Pearl
>> there's two places you can go, azdhds.gov, or ccd.gov/flu/swine.

Jose Cárdenas
>>What kinds of things would they find on the website

Janey Pearl
>>Frequently asked questions are there, on the c.d.c. Website every morning at 9:00 our time they're updating numbers. The numbers are constantly changing and there's reports that we go on what's updated at that 9:00 posting. Also information about where the numbers are, prevention tips, what people can do, and really what does this mean? What is the swine flu? How is it passed? It is something new to us, maybe some of us remember it from backs in the day. It's a lot of methods of learning about it.

Jose Cárdenas
>> and some clarification as to the numbers, as I understand it, what the c.d.c. Is reporting, or the world health organization, in terms of number of deaths is significantly lower than what we're hearing in the media.

Janey Pearl
>> right. One thing today, for example, we heard the numbers out of Mexico, which is pretty alarming, the numbers out of Mexico that we've heard in the media, world health organization says the actual deaths is much, much lower than the numbers that we're hearing in the media. And so that's an issue, because if it's true the numbers are so much lower, then it means a lot of things, but it means one thing we're trying to figure out is why is the virus in Mexico stronger and why are people dying in Mexico, but not necessarily dying in the united states. So those are some clues right now to this question. And really it is a big question. It's something new, it's something that you can prepare for to a limit, but at the same time there's going to be questions that we're learning the answers to.

Jose Cárdenas
>> Janey Pearl Arizona department of health services. Thank you for joining us.

Janey Pearl
>> my pleasure.

Janey Pearl:Latino Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Department of Health Services;

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