LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The swine flu outbreak is getting worse. The number of U.S. cases now tops 60 and what started as mild cases now includes five people in the hospital.
That leaves government officials walking a tight rope, trying to warn Americans of the danger without sparking panic.
"As we continue to investigate here, I expect we will see deaths in this country," said Dr. Richard Besser, the Acting Director for the Centers for Disease Control.
Two years ago the same panic spread over the avian bird flu. At that time, Calcasieu Parish formed the Region V Pandemic Flu Task Force composed of city officials, health and hospital officials, school system representatives, and emergency responders. That task force will be meeting Wednesday to discuss a possible outbreak of the swine flu in SWLA.
But, for now, Calcasieu Parish Schools are preparing for the worst.
On the bus, on the playground, in the classroom, hallways, or lunchroom, students are in constant contact with each other. With the swine flu threatening, spreading illness seems inevitable for school children, but Calcasieu Parish school nurses say it's preventable.
"At this point, the school nurses are reminding the schools the reinforce the need for good hand washing," said Ginger Pearson, Registered Nurse with CPSB.
They're instructing school employees to pay close attention to students and staff and watch for symptoms of contagious illnesses. There is also a fever protocol in which students with a temperature of 101.5 degrees or higher will be sent home from school. The students are asked to remain home until the fever has been gone for at least 24 hours. Also, a doctor's note suggesting it's safe to return to school is appreciated but not required.
"The more serious this threat becomes, the more concrete steps we will be taking to prevent the spread of this swine flu," said Calcasieu Parish Risk Manager Ron Hayes.