NC officials monitor swine flu

RALEIGH The state health director says there are a handful of suspected cases that are being tested.

Click here to watch the Health Department briefing

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.

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.

Some preliminary results should be back Tuesday with the CDC being able to confirm whether they are positive cases hopefully by Wednesday.

Dr. Jeffrey Engel, the state health director, said officials are involuntarily isolating patients who may have the virus. But he said the handful of cases are sporadic and in different parts of the state.

"All of these people have flu-like illness," Engel said. "They're sick, but they're all being managed at home. None of them have been hospitalized. Almost all of them reported travel to Mexico. We are isolating these people who are sick. We are not quarantining the household contacts."

Engel says the suspected cases are related to travel, mostly to Mexico. He said nobody has been hospitalized.

There are 62 confirmed cases in the U.S., most of them are mild and no one has died. Only one person is in the hospital.

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.

The Allen family of Raleigh says they went to Mexico earlier this month. They say they had no fears of the swine flu.

"We had a great time," Raleigh resident Carol Allen said. "None of my family is sick. Now granted, as a mom, if someone starts feeling bad tomorrow I will look into it."

They came back more than 2 weeks ago. But knowing that it's spreading among people where the Allen's just were, they say leaves them thankful they only brought back fun memories not the swine flu.

So far, the swine flu has killed at least 100 people in Mexico and hundreds in the country remain sick.

"What we're experiencing is that we have a new strain of influenza that we haven't seen before in humans or animals," said Dr. Megan Davies, epidemiologist with the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Health and agriculture officials also want people to know swine flu is spreading from person to person in the U.S. not from pigs to people and it's not a food-borne illness.

"The message is pork is perfectly safe to eat according to all the scientists out there," NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. "They see no evidence that this could ever be transmitted from especially from cooked product to the human population."

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.

Meanwhile, health officials around the world are bracing for a possible pandemic. And airlines are now offering travelers to change their flight plans without fees.

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.

The Centers for Disease Control is working to create a swine flu vaccine, because the normal flu vaccine shows no signs it will work.

Government officials don't know if they should order the new vaccine, though. Officials say creating a new one will slow down drug companies working on next year's vaccine.

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