The swine flu epidemic hit home yesterday with an extra wallop for some Hampstead Middle School students. Their 10-day Mexican trip to study Mayan and Aztec cultures was cut in half, as tour leaders decided "the most cautious path to take" was to fly the children back to New York City today.
So far, no New Hampshire residents have become ill with swine flu, according to Dr. Jose Montero, director of the state's Public Health Department.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 40 confirmed cases in the U.S. in five states — California, New York, Ohio, Texas and Kansas — as of yesterday. But that number is sure to grow. It's also likely more states will be reporting cases, and New Hampshire could be one of them, Montero said.
Meanwhile, the state is moving swiftly to head off a possible public health emergency by enlisting help from hospitals, doctors and the public.
"We are actively looking for cases," he said.
State health officials are contacting hospitals and other health-care providers, asking for reports of anyone ill with flu-like symptoms, especially if the patients have recently traveled to Mexico or come into contact with someone on a recent trip.
Gov. John Lynch has established a swine flu hotline at 1-888-330-6764. The line is open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to answer the public's questions about symptoms, travel advisories and prevention.
"We all can do something to stop the spread," Montero said.
Those precautions include washing hands frequently, covering a cough, and staying home from school or work when ill.
The state lab has streamlined its testing procedures to allow faster gathering and testing of samples. Health officials have prepared fact sheets about swine flu, which are available on the Web site at www.dhhs.nh.gov.