Swine Flu Prompts Concerns
Health-care leaders are putting together a strategy to deal with an evolving situation with the strain of influenza caused by the H1N1 virus.
Moore County Health Director Robert Wittmann said the Health Department is working with representatives from the public schools, FirstHealth of the Carolinas and county government to discuss the outbreak and formulate plans.
Earlier this week, Moore County added its third confirmed case of H1N1 flu, more commonly referred to as swine flu. Statewide, the number of confirmed cases has grown to 554, including the 77 new ones added in the past week.
Wittmann said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is expected to release a priority list in the near future specifying who should get the H1N1 flu vaccine, now in the final testing stages.
"Based on this information, we will have a better idea of which citizens should be targeted initially for the vaccine," Wittmann said.
The latest information indicates that health-care workers, children and pregnant women may be priority groups to receive the vaccine.
The Health Department recommends that residents make plans to receive the seasonal flu vaccination from their private health-care providers as soon as it becomes available. Wittmann recommends that everyone stay informed about the availability of the H1N1 flu vaccine.
Current information suggests that the H1N1 flu vaccine may be available in mid-October. It is expected that the H1N1 vaccine may consist of two doses. If this is the case, it will be important for residents to follow the advice regarding when the second dose should be taken, according to Wittmann.
The CDC has identified the H1N1 flu as a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a new strain of influenza virus. In March and April, the first confirmed cases of human infection were documented in a number of states as well as in other countries.
Although seasonal flu cases normally increase during hot weather, the H1N1 infection continues to spread, according to health officials.
Because the majority of flu cases being diagnosed this summer are the H1N1 strain, the N.C. Division of Public Health recently reported that, under CDC guidance, health departments will discontinue reporting confirmed and probable cases. The state health agency says that because only a small proportion of persons with respiratory illnesses are tested for H1N1, counts of laboratory confirmed cases greatly under-estimate the true number of cases.
Symptoms of H1N1 flu include fever, cough and sore throat. Other symptoms are runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and, in some people, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting.
"If you feel sick enough to see a doctor, call your health-care provider," Wittmann said. "Stay at home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them."
Health-care providers advise that the best way to avoid contracting the disease is regular and thorough hand washing and avoiding people who show symptoms of respiratory illness.
So far, eight deaths in North Carolina have been attributed to H1N1 flu, although some patients had other health issues at the time of death. Two people have died in Guilford county and there has been one death in each of Buncombe, Carteret, Chatham, Cherokee, Transylvania and Wilson counties.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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