Are we crying wolf over the big "little pig"?

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The human-to-human spread of swine flu prompted the World Health Organization to raise its alert level to phase four - just two levels shy of the top level. Global, national, and local health officials are obviously concerned, asking, "Are they crying wolf?"

"I'm going to get out and do things like I always do," said Melissa Wedgeworth.

Like lunch in the park with her grand kids, but Wedgeworth agrees the government's concern is valid.

"Anything that causes danger to people is justified for people to look into it and be aware of it," she said.

In 2003, it was Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - or SARS which had health officials across the globe on high alert. West Nile Virus sent doctors and veterinarians scrambling just a few short years later. The Bird Flu took the lives of hundreds in Asia. Now, it is Swine Flu.

"I don't think we're at all crying wolf," said nurse epidemiologist Shawn Clifford who is with the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

She said that just because you're not hearing about it, does not make it less of an issue.

"If I get a West Nile case, we go into targeted mosquito spraying in that area," she explained. "If we weren't here to go and track down those pertussis cases and treat family members then we would have big outbreaks. SARS caused a big panic when it came out because it was new. We'd never seen it before."

Dr. Jonathan MacClements with UT Health and Science Center says that's what makes Swine Flu different.

"We don't know, quite the nature of what this organism is," he said.

MacClements says wall to wall media coverage and government warnings are key. So he is monitoring the CDC web site and local flu cases for constant updates.

"Were this to escalate, were it to be more serious than it is at the moment, we would be ready to respond

"It could get bad but I am not going to go crazy right now and be over protective," said Wedgeworth.

At least, for now.

The Northeast Texas Public Health District says 10 flu test specimens initially came back negative, but as a precaution, they were submitted to the public health lab for additional testing. At this time, there are still no confirmed cases of swine flu in East Texas.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.