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No swine flu found in Minnesota -- yet

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World Health Organization lab
A scientist works in a laboratory at a World Health Organization Center in Melbourne, Australia, testing samples of people who may have contracted the swine flu while visiting Mexico City.
WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

(AP) - Public health officials in Minnesota say they're responding aggressively to the potential swine flu threat, even though no cases have been confirmed in the state so far.

      Lab tests came back negative on samples from 12 patients with flu-like symptoms, the Minnesota Department of Health announced over the weekend, but officials say they'll continue to keep a close watch. 

And they expect the unusual swine flu strain that's causes illnesses in Mexico and some other states to turn up here eventually.

State epidemiologist
Dr. Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota state epidemiologist, says state health officials are "ready to respond."
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Health Department

      Health Department spokesman Buddy Ferguson said Monday that the state has long been planning for this and its exact response will depend on the circumstances of how the disease turns up the state.

      But Ferguson said the state has been consulting regularly with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which stands ready to provide assistance. 

He said the preparations have been a team effort involving state and local health authorities, the CDC and the World Health Organization.

      "We're all in this together," he said.

      Since last Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health has been asking hospitals and doctors to submit specimens if they have any patients with the kind of respiratory symptoms typical of influenza.

      The department has also asked health care providers to report any patients with flu-like symptoms who have been to Mexico or to parts of the U.S. where the unusual swine flu strain has been found, as well as patients who've had contact with sick people who've been to those areas.

      "MDH and local health departments in the state have been preparing for major public health threats for years," State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said in a statement. "We are ready to respond."       

             (Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)