Vice President of Patient Care Janie Fruge told the Sulphur Rotary Club on Wednesday that West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital is well prepared for a pandemic flu possibility, but that the situation is "certainly not there yet."

There are no confirmed cases of swine flu in Louisiana, even as the illness moves into 10 states, including Texas, where a child died from the illness in Houston.

Vice President of Patient Care Janie Fruge told the Sulphur Rotary Club on Wednesday that West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital is well prepared for a pandemic flu possibility, but that the situation is "certainly not there yet." (At the time of this writing, the World Health Organization had raised the pandemic threat level to level 5, or "human to human transmission." Level 6 is considered a full pandemic.)

"Currently, we've set up a separate waiting room for those with flu symptoms, and we've provided masks and other supplies to those in that waiting room," she said.

The elderly, the very young, and those with suppressed immune systems have the highest chance of death from the flu outbreak. Especially susceptible are babies younger than three months who have not been breastfed, Fruge said.

Signs and symptoms of swine flu are much like other strains of the flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Fruge urged the public to keep an eye out for a combination of those symptoms, especially fever, as the common cold can sometimes be mistaken for the flu.

"It's kind of rare that you have a fever when you have the common cold," she said.

"If anyone is exhibiting these symptoms, they should probably contact their health care provider."

A person infected with swine flu is infectious one day before symptoms appear and up to seven days after symptoms appear. Janie said it's extremely important, now more than ever, to be aware of one's proximity with those coughing or sneezing, as this illness can be transmitted through the air.

"You have to be in close proximity," she said.

Incubation of this flu is two to five days, meaning that you can be exposed to it on Monday but not experience symptoms until Wednesday or even Friday. Regular flu shots do not protect against swine flu, though the Centers for Disease Control is working to create a vaccine.

According to the Louisiana Office of Public Health Infectious Disease Epidemiology Section, swine flu acts much like seasonal flu, and can vary in severity from mild to severe. In the last four years (2005 to January 2009), 12 cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S., with no deaths. However, in 1988, a previously healthy 32 year old pregnant woman in Wisconsin died after being infected with swine flu, and an outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey happened in 1976 that resulted in over 200 serious cases and one death.

Fruge said now is a good time to review, both for oneself and one's children, the importance of washing one's hands. Not only does hand washing help protect against the 120 varieties of influenza (including swine flu), it also helps counteract staph infection and other diseases.

Southwest Daily News