New call center fielding hundreds of questions

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - While there's no confirmed cases of swine flu here in Virginia, questions about the virus are pouring in. Now, The Virginia Department of Health is manning a call center to field the public's questions.

Employees have been busy answering phones and questions since the call center opened at 8:30 Thursday morning. They have fielded about 500 total calls.

"We did 250 calls in the first two hours," said Call Center Coordinator Suzi Silverstein.

It was a busy day answering calls and questions. Local departments of health were fielding so many swine flu questions, the state agency decided to open up a call center.

"We thought by opening up this call center giving everybody one central place to call to get their information, that ensures that we are giving out good information and can give good responses to their questions," said Silverstein.

And the calls have been coming. Staff members tell us a lot of people just want to make sure they are getting accurate information. But a couple of questions came up time and time again. One of the top, Is it safe to travel?

"We've had a lot of questions about the travel issue, whether it's travel abroad or travel here within the United States. What we are telling them is at this point the only reccommendation made is to not take any unneccessary trips to Mexico," said Training Coordinator Patrick Bridge.

Another top question refers to what these employees say is the most common rumor about swine flu, that it's not safe to eat pork.

"We have people calling 'Is it okay to eat pork?' Yes it's okay to eat pork. Is it okay to eat food from Mexico? Yes it's okay to eat food from Mexico and yes it's okay to eat mexican food. Those are common questions," Silverstein said.

These employees are urging people to contact their health care providers about specific medical questions, but they are handing out some advice.

"Wash your hands, wash your hands. If you're sick stay home, wash your hands. Cover your cough and wash your hands," said Silverstein. 
The call center number is 1-877-ask-vdh3. Phone lines will be back open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday.

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