TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Zero confirmed cases in East Texas, and local health officials want to keep it that way. Federal health officials are reporting more than three dozen cases of swine flu in California, Kansas, Ohio and New York. Three are here in the lone star state. In San Antonio a school district was forced to temporarily close its doors. The situation is keeping East Texas health officials on their toes.
The solution is simple for Wolf Ray.
"I've had a few questions from people out here," said Ray.
How do you "protect yourself" from swine flu? Ray's sign had the answer... "Stop shaking people's hands," it said.
"I don't want to shake your hand," said Ray. "I'm going to bump knuckles. I'm going to bump your elbow. Protect other people, protect your family."
Ray's message is spreading.
"We're tracking this by the hour," said George Roberts who is with the Northeast Public Health District.
"We're concerned that it could spread to our area, and we want to be prepared," he explained.
Masks are now popular with air travelers in Houston. In Dallas, they're passing out flyers to bus riders going to and from Mexico. Tyler ISD plans to call its students' parents with information.
"Planned for the worst, and hoping for the best," said nurse epidemiologist Shawn Clifford who says the concerns are justified. "Our bodies don't have antibodies to it right now, and so it's a novel strain of flu...and that's why it's so scary."
She said she has been in contact with hospitals, clinics, and school nursing offices in six East Texas counties. Local health officials held a press conference Monday. If and when swine flu makes it to East Texas, they want to catch it...fast.
"Our community is so mobile," said Clifford. "People travel for jobs, for pleasure, so it's a real possibility."
We found the antiviral Tamiflu in stock at East Texas pharmacies. Of course, the best case scenario is that it will stay there.
"I don't want to go to a funeral this year...not from the flu," said Ray.
Common swine flu symptoms include: an extremely high fever, severe aches and joint pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, health officials say you should contact your doctor.