By Catherine Wolf, KWMU
St. Louis, MO –
State health officials have asked for Missouri's portion of a national supply of antiviral medications that could be used to treat swine flu. The request comes as five states, including neighboring Kansas, have confirmed cases of the new flu strain.
Margaret Donnelly directs Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services. She says state health officials are watching national developments closely.
"We are in a heightened preparedness stage meaning that we are not only bringing together our state stockpile of antivirals but also our federal share."
Donnelly says Missouri has enough of its own antiviral medications to treat more than 600,000 cases of the flu. She says federal supplies could arrive as early as the beginning of May.
Officials at several St. Louis area hospitals say they're telling staffers to take the same precautions they always would when dealing with flu patients. Hospital leaders are encouraging staffers to wear masks, wash their hands and ask patients if they've recently traveled out of the country.
Dr. Keith Woeltje is the director of infection prevention for BJC Healthcare. He says at this point other precautions aren't needed because few swine flu cases have been reported in the U.S. and the virus is treatable with antiviral medications.
"Because the numbers are relatively low really right now, I don't know that there's a lot of cause for concern for the general population other than just keeping an eye on things."
No swine flu cases have been reported in Missouri or Illinois.