BARSTOW Local health officials are keeping a watchful eye on the recent global swine influenza outbreak, although there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in San Bernardino County.

"Everybody's keeping a close eye on it," said Susan Biewend, infection control manager at Barstow Community Hospital. Biewend, along with doctors, nurses and other hospital staff participated in several conference calls on Tuesday with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Bernardino County Department of Public Health and other groups to keep on top of the spreading viruses' latest developments.

There have been up to 13 confirmed cases of swine flu in California, according to The Associated Press. Though there haven't been any confirmed cases in San Bernardino County, the health department is currently testing 36 samples of nasal swabs for the virus, according to Jim Lindley, county public health director.

Barstow Community Hospital has not received any patients complaining of flu-like symptoms since the outbreak started, according to Biewend.

The hospital does, however, have antiviral flu medication Tamiflu which is used to treat swine flu on hand as a standard precaution against the seasonal flu, according to John Rader, hospital spokesman.

While the seasonal flu shows signs through fever or upper respiratory illness, swine flu includes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, Biewend said.

The county also has a stockpile of antivirals and is looking to request additional doses of Tamiflu from the state, according to Lindley. "Just in case," he said.

Biewend said the hospital is taking the same precautions that it normally sets in place during flu season, for example having patients wear a mask if they are coughing while in a waiting room.

She advises people to take what she calls "common sense" precautions such as avoiding sneezing into your hands, staying home if sick and contacting a doctor if an illness persists.

"Keeping hands clean is a big one," Biewend emphasized.

The nearest outbreaks have occurred in San Diego county, said Lindley, who noted that the strain seen in swine flu incidents reported in the U.S. have been "an extremely mild form of flu."

"We're not seeing the severity of illness that they're seeing in Mexico and we don't know why," he said.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or