Colorado expects swine flu cases, but none yet |

Colorado expects swine flu cases, but none yet

Ivan Moreno
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Colorado’s chief medical officer says he expects to see swine flu cases in Colorado “in the near future” but none have been reported yet.

Dr. Ned Calonge of the state Department of Public Health and Environment said Monday there has been no increase of flu-like cases in the state.

Calonge said he couldn’t estimate when swine flu will show up in Colorado but said the ailment is “literally only a plane flight away.”

Federal officials have confirmed 40 cases of swine flu in the U.S. and are urging Americans against most travel to Mexico.

More than 1,600 cases of swine flu have been reported in Mexico, and the suspected death toll there is nearly 150.

The U.S. stepped up checks of people entering the country by air, land and sea, but Denver International Airport officials said they were taking only normal precautions.

Mexico-bound travelers leaving Denver on Monday stocked up on surgical masks and hand sanitizer but said they wouldn’t change their plans despite the travel advisory.

“A hundred people a day probably die in Mexico City in car wrecks,” said Jeff Henderson, 39, who was headed to a friend’s wedding in Mexico. “It’s just playing the odds, really.”

Megan Tschopp, 28, and Isabel Hedges, 25, both of Jackson, Wyo., were flying from Denver to Guatemala for a six-week Spanish course with a stopover in Mexico City. They picked up surgical masks on their way to the airport and then turned off their cell phones so they wouldn’t get flooded with calls from worried relatives.

“I mean, there’s nothing they can do,” Tschopp said.

Transportation Security Administration workers at Denver International were allowed to wear gloves and masks but weren’t required to, airport spokesman Jeff Green said.

Green said the airport had its normal contingent of paramedics on duty but no extra staff. If an incoming flight crew noticed passengers with symptoms, a paramedic would board the plane to check, but that’s normal procedure, he said.

Travelers arriving in Denver from Mexico City shrugged off concerns and said they had faith the Mexican government is doing everything possible to prevent the spread of swine flu.

“There’s no panic. People are doing the things they normally do without fear and just paying attention to the news,” said Arturo Bermudez, 81, a Denver resident who returned to Colorado after visiting relatives in Mexico City. He stepped off the plane with a surgical mask wrapped around his neck.

Alberto Morales, a Mexico City resident on a weeklong business trip to Denver, said about half the people on the plane were wearing masks. He also said he wasn’t worried about the swine flu because “we’re informed about it, there’s medicine, and there’s a cure for the illness.”

“I think our government is managing things well,” he said.

Jason Gridley, 34, and his fiancee Amy Rafferty, 30, arrived back home in Denver on Monday after nine days in Cancun, Mexico. They said they began getting concerned the last few days of their trip and got more worried after hearing reports about swine flu cases in New York tied to students who went to Cancun on spring break.

Gridley said his paranoia increased further once he and Rafferty arrived at the Cancun airport for their return flight and saw people wearing masks.

“If anyone was coughing or sneezing, everybody was turning and looking ” at least I was,” said Gridley, adding that he bought hand sanitizer and avoided eating airport food.

He said he didn’t see any masks for sale but would have bought one if he did “because I’m so paranoid.”

Rafferty said she and Gridley planned to stay away from their relatives in Denver for a couple of days as a precautionary measure.

Denver Public Schools reminded teachers and students to wash their hands and take other normal precautions but didn’t plan any extra scrubbing.

The Mesa County School District in western Colorado said it planned no extra cleaning and that the county health department was handling advisories on prevention.

Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s largest district, said it was taking normal precautions but nothing extra.

The state health department opened its emergency operations center and set up a phone line (877-462-2911 ) to answer questions.

“We’re preparing and being as aggressive as we possibly can,” said Chris Lindley, the state health department’s director of emergency preparedness.

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