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Updated | Residents cause health dept. to create flu hot line

The Fayette County Health Department has established a swine flu hot line to answer the public's questions about the flu outbreak, which has prompted a U.S. public health emergency.

If you have questions, or think you might have symptoms of the flu, dial (859) 288-7529. Health department nurses will take calls from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After-hours calls will be answered by a recorded message with referral information.

Spokesman Kevin Hall said the health department is establishing a clinic in its Newtown Pike headquarters dedicated to swine flu cases, if any turn up. The step is intended to keep those infected with swine flu separated from other health department patients, he said.

Officials decided to set up the hot line because callers were inundating the department with questions Monday morning, spokesman Kevin Hall said.

As of Sunday, 20 cases of swine influenza had been reported in five states, according to federal health authorities. No cases had been confirmed in Kentucky.

The outbreak seems to be centered in Mexico.

Swine flu is a form of influenza that occurs in pigs and can sometimes "jump" to humans. But such infections are unusual.

The swine flu virus thought to be responsible for the current outbreak apparently was passed between humans, which is a primary reason health authorities are concerned.

Reports have fueled fears about a global flu "pandemic" like the deadly wave of influenza that swept around the world in 1918.

Health officials, however, urged people not to panic, noting that swine flu can be treated with prescription anti-viral drugs.

Swine flu, like other forms of influenza, is spread mainly by person-to-person contact through coughing or sneezing by infected individuals. It is not spread by eating pork .

Health authorities recommended covering your nose or mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; washing your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based cleaners; and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

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