05/21/09 — Officials still eye reports about flu

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Officials still eye reports about flu

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 21, 2009 1:46 PM

Debate about H1N1 might be waning, but health officials are still keeping tabs on its status.

Health Director James Roosen gave a brief update on the formerly known "swine flu" to the Board of Health on Wednesday. He said some experts are predicting the possibility of flu cases continuing into the summer and even fall.

"As of yesterday, we have had about 5,500 cases nationally," he said, noting that in North Carolina, the counties where cases have been seen are in Craven, Carteret and Onslow. "The role for public health is mainly surveillance and containment."

Currently, health officials are staying poised to act if necessary. If there appears to be the potential risk for vulnerable populations -- such as young children or the elderly -- the recommendation would be to test and submit samples to the state lab, he said.

"About 88 percent of samples submitted may be colds or allergies, those that are not influenza," he noted.

The state already has a good surveillance setup in place, he said, with about 90 sites in place.

While H1N1 might not be considered an epidemic, cases of flu have risen statewide in the past two weeks, Roosen pointed out.

"We were told to expect more cases throughout the summer," he said, adding that the majority of cases of H1N1 have been concentrated in ages of 5- to 24-year-olds.

Health departments are bracing for any outbreaks, with the local department recently receiving a shipment of medicine and other supplies, Roosen said.

It will be stockpiled "for possible distribution to physicians, depending on what happens to the current status of H1N1 and seasonal flu," he said. "We have also alerted area physicians."

The concern right now, he added, are reports of a "novel strain of flu."

"It's mild, really, no different than the typical flu," he said. "So far it's been mild and not due to eating pork."

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