Health officials urge caution, not panic, in face of flu

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Gov. Bill Richardson spoke to a crowd of Clovis officials and media Monday morning at Clovis Community College. He said the reason for his visit was to bring the message of what the state is doing about the H1N1 virus.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

New Mexico health officials urged eastern New Mexico residents to stress sanitation and hygiene, and stay home if they get sick, but don’t panic in the face of the H1N1 virus also known as swine flu.

Gov. Bill Richardson, flanked by top state health officials, addressed the region on Monday morning at Clovis Community College.

He reminded residents to “cough or sneeze in the crook of your elbow” and wash hands frequently.

Richardson said the state has long had planning groups working toward the possibility of a pandemic flu, and though the current situation is classified as an outbreak, “over the past week and a half, we’ve seen our efforts pay off.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Richardson said, but Curry and Roosevelt counties are not among the six New Mexico counties that have submitted probable H1N1 cases for testing.

New Mexico has three confirmed cases of the flu virus, in Valencia and Socorro counties, and officials are evaluating about a dozen other probable cases in other counties.

Richardson said schools have been closed in two counties strictly as a precautionary measure to prevent kids from congregating and increasing possible exposure to the virus.

Public school sports activities have been halted across the state in the interest of fairness to affected counties. For Clovis and Portales, he said, that has an unfortunate trickledown effect that has nothing to do with local health concerns.