The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is working with the health and medicalcommunity throughout Missouri and the U.S. to monitor the swine flu.

Spokesman Brian Quinn says rightnow, everyone is in the preparedness stage, and that "While we’re prepared for the worst, we’re hoping for the best."

Thus far, those in Missouri tested for the H1N1 virus — a strain that is a combination of swine flu, bird flu and other common influenza strains — have tested negative.

When comparing symptoms of other common ailments this time of year — seasonal allergies, influenza and a head cold — one stands out, Quinn says, which is a high fever. Other swine flu symptoms presenting in cases in other states and other countries include a sore throat, severe fatigue, aches and pains and a runny nose.

Quinn says the regularflu that comes around each season is still running its course, meaning some people could become easily alarmed. He’s urging those with flu symptoms, while it’s not an emergency situation, to see a physician. A doctor will first determine whether a person is infected with the swine flu, and if they are, will forward the information to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Quinn says people can implement good health habits to help preventthe spread of the disease, such as frequent hand-washing with warm, soapy water, using hand sanitizer, eatingnutritional foods, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and don’t share drinks or utensils with others.

The swine flu outbreak has not hit pandemic proportions yet, but the warnings are in place in preparation for the worst. Quinn says the health department has been working on pandemic flu plan for a few years, so that planis in place already.

"We are not facing that yet, but we’re treating itlike this could turn into that," he said.

Department officials remind folks the swine flu can only betransmitted from humans to humans; and eating pork or being aroundpigs cannot spread the disease.

Quinn says this disease could do one of three things: it could decrease from this point and fizzle out, stay at current steady levels for a while with a few more cases and then eventually drop off, or turn into an outbreak and spread rapidly.

The CDC is currently reporting around cases in the U.S. in Kansas, Ohio, New York, Texas, Illinois and California. A toddler in Texas has died from the illness. For more information from the CDC on the swine flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ .

Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]