NC officials: No confirmed swine flu cases

April 29, 2009 4:39:38 AM PDT
State health officials say there are no confirmed cases of swine flu in North Carolina.Dr. Jeffrey Engel, the state health director, said Tuesday evening that 15 suspected cases in North Carolina tested negative for the Swine Flu, but more are being tested - reportedly under 50 cases.

Most are North Carolinians who traveled from Mexico within the last 7 days and are sick. Health officials are taking nasal swabs and sending them the state lab.

Click here to watch the Health Department briefing

Meanwhile, some parents are worried about close contact with classmates and spreading sickness between siblings. And school systems are gearing up just in case.

Parent Kelly Utt-Grubb says she wants to know where those suspected cases are. She is worried they could be kids in her sons' school or on the soccer field.

"I think as residents of NC we have a right to know, we need to make decisions about our own children and where we want them to go, and not go," Utt-Grubb said. "We might chose to keep our kids home, especially if they said there is one in your zip code, or within 2 miles of your neighborhood, I certainly might keep my kids home for a few days until they disinfected the schools."

Wake County School and health officials say they have a plan.

"There are procedures in place to roll out when time is right, but in the meantime, it's very important people don't overreact and don't panic," said Michael Evans with the Wake County Public School System.

For now, Utt-Grubb says she's doing what she can now to make sure her kids play safe and stay healthy.

In a worst case scenario, if swine flu were to hit Wake schools hard enough, classes would be canceled. For now Utt-Grubb is sending her kids with hand sanitizer. Schools say that's a good suggestion.

And Wake Med Hospital says it is also taking precautions to protect patients and the public.

The state health director has asked all local hospitals to be ready for the worst-case scenario - a pandemic.

President Barack Obama on Monday characterized the U.S. cases asa cause for concern but not "a cause for alarm." The federal government said travel warnings for trips to Mexico would remain in place as long as swine flu is detected.

When anyone visits Wake Med, a sign directs visitors to a hand gel station. Frequent hand washing will help keep the flu away from those who are most susceptible to illness.

"We ask sick visitors not to visit the hospital all the time but especially in this case we would ask sick people not to visit our patients," infection control specialist Jessica Dixon said.

But at some point, Wake Med may be called on to help treat swine flu patients.

Right now, state health officials are being pretty guarded about the number of suspected cases in the state - apparently just a few at this point. But according to Wake Med CEO Bill Atkinson, Some of those are in Wake County.

"We do not have an active case," Atkinson said. "We do have some that are under review. We're pretty confident that if the numbers were to expand we would have that in control in North Carolina."

After a recent shipment of flu fighting drugs from the feds, North Carolina now has a stockpile of a million courses. A "course" is ten pills per patient.

And the good news is that the strain of swine flu being brought back to the U.S. from Mexico appears to be vulnerable to the stockpiled drugs.

And health officials say for some reason, maybe a mutating virus or American immunity, the illness striking people in the states seems more subdued than the strain in Mexico.

Still, North Carolina health officials want anyone who recently traveled to southern California, Texas or Mexico to tell their doctor where they went and if they develop flu-like symptoms.

Click here for more information about swine flu

Governor Bev Perdue said North Carolina is equipped with a full supply of anti-viral medications and personal protective supplies such as face masks.

"Public health teams ready to deploy to any community in our state that needs assistance," she said.

Health officials are advising family members and really the public to wash their hands thoroughly and to sneeze or cough into their sleeves, their advice during any flu season.

If you think you have flu-like symptoms, you should call your doctor.


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