The Haywood County Health Department continues to monitor developments related to H1N1, or swine flu virus. The North Carolina Division of Public Health announced its first confirmed case in Onslow County on May 3. While there are currently no cases under investigation in Haywood County, there are several other probable cases under investigation in North Carolina.
“While we do not have any cases currently under investigation in Haywood County, we are encouraging anyone with flu symptoms to voluntarily isolate themselves for 7 days,” said Julia Plemmons, Director of Nursing for the Haywood County Health Department. “We will monitor the community for any clusters that we may need to investigate, such as unusual groups of respiratory illness.”
The Health Department has set up a hotline for county residents. The hotline number is 356-1111. During business hours 8-5 you may press 0 to speak to someone about the H1N1 influenza or other questions. After hours you must call back during the business day to have questions answered.
“We are communicating almost daily with all emergency agencies, and we’re notifying agencies as we get updated recommendations,” said Plemmons. “We’re also keeping in touch with area hospitals, school officials, Emergency Medical Services and law enforcement.”
Plemmons indicated that health department staff members have daily phone conferences with state, CDC and other local health departments across the state and the Public Health Regional Surveillance Team 6 for up to date treatment and isolation recommendations.
Exactly what is H1N1 flu? It is a new influenza virus causing illness in people very similar to the symptoms of regular flu, which includes fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has determined the new H1N1 flu virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people. Spread of this virus is thought to be the same as that of seasonal flu. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.
CDC continues to take aggressive action to respond to the outbreak of H1N1 flu. On May 3, CDC completed deployment of 25 % of the supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile – (SNS) to all states in the continental United States. These supplies and medicines will help states and U.S. territories respond to the outbreak.
There is no vaccine available right now, but the Federal Government and manufactures have begun the process of developing a vaccine against the novel H1N1 flu virus.
Due to the increasing number of H1N1 infections identified across the country as well as those under investigation in North Carolina, there is a recommendation for limited testing by the state lab based on the current guidelines issued by the CDC.
Testing cannot be conducted for all persons suspected of having novel influenza (H1N1) infection. Confirmatory testing at NC Department of Public Health will be limited to patients who are hospitalized with fever greater than 100◦ F (37.8◦C), respiratory symptoms, including cough, sore throat, etc., and no alternate explanation for acute symptoms. During the period you have symptoms, it is possible for you to spread the flu virus to those who have close contact with you.
To help prevent the spread of flu virus to others in close contact with you, the Haywood County Health Department is asking you to follow these current guidelines:
The person who is sick should:
Stay at home. Stay home for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer.
Avoid close contact with others. Limit your contact with others. Avoid close contact such as kissing, sharing toothbrushes or drinks with people who are not sick. Try to stay in one room of the house, as far away from others as possible.
Cover your mouth and nose. Always cover your mouth and nose when you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose.
Wash your Hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough, sneeze, or throw away a used tissue in the trash. It is recommended to wash your hands for 15 to 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Wear a mask. When you are in close contact with other (within 6 feet) or if it is necessary to leave the house, wear a mask to stop the spread of flu to others.
Call your health care provider if your symptoms get worse:
- Trouble breathing including shortness of breath for fast breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Confusion or irritability
- Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough
- Refusing to drink fluids
Other persons in the home:
Watch for symptoms. Household and close contacts should watch for symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, or runny nose. Contacts who develop symptoms should remain home and follow the step listed above.
Choose One Person to Care for the Sick Person. Limit the number of people caring for the sick person. Wear a mask if you must have close contact. Persons with chronic health problems or pregnant women should not care for the sick person, if at all possible.
Wash Your Hands. Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand gel right after contact with the sick person. Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry and other personal items.
Limit the number of visitors. Sick people should not have visitors while they are ill.
Wipe down Surfaces. Clean surfaces that are frequently touched or shared with a standard household disinfectant. This may include doorknobs, remote controls, bedside tables, and bathroom counters and fixtures.
Persons should only take medicines for influenza if their healthcare providers prescribe them. For people with certain health conditions, a medicine called either oseltamivir (Tamilflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) may be prescribed. All sick persons should rest, drink plenty of liquids, and take over the counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat their fever and other symptoms. All children under 18 Years of age should NOT take aspirin or products containing aspirin (e.g. Pepto-Bismol) as this can cause a rare serious illness, Reye Syndrome.
If you become severely ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.
Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Bluish or gray skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Not waking up or not interacting
Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Fever with a rash
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
In addition to the Haywood County Health Department Flu Line, you can also call the NC Care Line – (800) 662-7030. For online information about protecting yourself and your family from flu, see www.ncdhhs.gov or www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/gcdc/flu.html for more about influenza prevention efforts in North Carolina. For additional health information and more about swine flu in the U.S., see www.cdc.gov/flu/swine.