NC enforcing new H1N1 testing rule

RALEIGH Doctors are concerned some cases may go unreported, because patients with flu-like symptoms do not have a guarantee they'll get an answer on whether they have the Swine Flu.

"I think that it's underreported currently," Urgent Care Physician Dr. Mike Moore said. "I think the numbers are underreported, but we don't have an ability to confirm test results for everyone."

So far the state has only 12 confirmed cases and most of them are in the coastal counties.

Dr. Mike Moore says most of his patients are between the ages of 20 and 60 --relatively healthy-- and don't fit the state's new guidelines for Swine Flu testing.

"The healthier patients can tolerate infection and let it run its course or be treated and it can quickly be reversed with Tamiflu," he said.

But high risk patients with flu-like symptoms, like children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, are now the priority.

"The information is coming in daily about the best way to handle this," Dr. Moore said.

Currently, the state is urging doctors to send all patients with high fevers to the hospital for testing first.

For patients who don't need to be hospitalized, Dr. Moore says he would need the local health department's permission to test for the novel H1N1 virus, commonly known as the Swine Flu. But the new rules pose a slight problem for patients concerned they're contagious.

"The confirmation is needed to help them feel at ease so they haven't passed on this novel virus to a loved one or a friend … and I can't answer that question for them because they're not going to fit the category of testing," Dr. Moore said.

State health officials say low risk patients can also be tested through a network of more than 80 private providers statewide.

They say the testing rule change isn't about saving money on state lab testing, but rather a reasonable response to a low number of confirmed cases in North Carolina.

But some doctors fear that policy could change again when the real flu season arrives.

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