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Summary of H1N1 flu information from 4 p.m. Media Briefing

Dr. Jeffrey Engel, State Health Director

Release Date: May 4, 2009
Contact: Carol Schriber, 919-733-9190

National Numbers

  • As of 11 a.m. today (Monday, May 4), the CDC is reporting 286 confirmed cases of the novel H1N1 virus in 36 states, including North Carolina.
  • CDC has confirmed only one death as a result of the H1N1 virus; patient was a 23-month-old child in Texas.
  • For state-by-state case counts, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov/swineflu.

North Carolina Update

Numbers

  • North Carolina has one confirmed case of the novel H1N1 virus, in Onslow County. The person has been in isolation since being notified earlier this week. The person’s spouse is considered a probable case; a sample has to CDC for confirmation. This person has also been in isolation since being notified. Both of these individuals were likely exposed during travel to Texas. A thorough investigation around both the confirmed and probable cases in Onslow County has already been conducted by local and state public health officials, and no additional cases have been identified. None of their contacts have developed symptoms.
  • North Carolina has a total of 7 probable cases currently under investigation. Four of these cases are in Craven County, one case in Carteret County and one in Wake County, in addition to the one already mentioned case in Onslow County. Field investigators are now working in Wake, Onslow, Carteret and Craven counties. The patients have been in isolation and their contact with others is being investigated.
  • As of  3:00 p.m. today, the State Laboratory of Public Health in North Carolina had received 433 specimens since Sunday. 1 was confirmed positive by CDC; 7 probables are awaiting confirmation testing; 382 specimens have tested negative; 40 specimens are pending; and 3 were unsatisfactory specimens.
  • The State Laboratory of Public Health is currently operating 24 hours a day in order to handle the increased amount of specimens that continue to arrive. Testing on these samples is happening around the clock.

Changes in Testing and Surveillance

  • Now that we know the virus is in North Carolina, we can’t rely on travel to distinguish H1N1 virus from other respiratory infections. Anyone admitted to hospital with fever and respiratory illness will be tested for H1N1flu in order to identify serious cases. Testing of milder cases will also continue through our sentinel provider network (physician’s office, hospital, university health centers). We’ve planned for this change and it is consistent with CDC guidelines.
  • Suspect cases are not being counted any more, we will focus on identifying probable and confirmed cases.

Actions

  • An elementary school in Craven County (Arthur Edwards Elementary School) has been dismissed this week in accordance with CDC guidelines because a probable case of the H1N1 virus was identified in a student.
  • The reason that CDC recommends dismissing schools that have a student with a confirmed or probable case of H1N1is to try to reduce the spread of the virus. Children are very susceptible to getting this new virus and schools may serve as amplification point for spread of this new virus in a community. The authority to recommend school dismissal resides with both the state health director and county health director.
  • Public health agencies are actively working with local health departments, hospitals other key providers, schools, the Latino community, minority organizations and migrant workers to educate local communities about what they can do to reduce risk of getting the H1N1 virus as well as take the appropriate and immediate steps to protect the public health in the event that a case is diagnosed in their community.
  • We are also working with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and will be reaching out to other departments.
  • The N.C. Office of Citizens Services (NC CARE Line) is responding to calls from the public regarding H1N1 flu.
  • Governor Perdue is working closely with state health officials to monitor this situation. Public health officials are working with the local county health officials in the counties where the patients are located to provide any assistance they need in responding.

Prevention Messages

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water and soap are not available.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue; throw the used tissue into a trash can.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, do not go to work or school; stay away from other people as much as possible.
  • Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
  • While there are no plans at this time to cancel graduation ceremonies, public health officials are recommending that students or family members experiencing flu-like symptoms stay home. Staying home to prevent exposure of others is a standard precaution that should be taken any time someone has flu-like symptoms. School officials may want to consider replacing the traditional handshake.
  • Federal health officials are urging and recommending that Americans defer most travel to Mexico at this time.  It is important to note that currently, there have been no travel bans to Mexico that have been issued by the United States. Information about travel can be found at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.

For more information see the NC DHHS flu website at flu.ncdhhs.gov and the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu .

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