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Official: Most N.C. swine flu cases will go unreported

Posted May 26, 2009

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— As the H1N1 virus continues to spread across North Carolina, the state's public health director said Tuesday that the number of confirmed cases of swine flu likely is much greater than the 14 that have been reported.

"They will definitely go unreported," Dr. Jeffrey Engel said. "We feel that our current (testing) method probably catches about one in 10 to one in 20 that are really happening here."

Swine flu testing, H1N1 virus N.C. testing doesn't catch most swine flu cases

The first confirmed cases in the Triangle were reported over the weekend. A UNC Health Care worker and a Durham resident contracted the disease, and both were isolated to limit any spread of the disease.

Health officials said the two cases are unrelated, although both people had recently traveled to New York City, which has experienced the largest U.S. outbreak of the disease.

More than 6,500 cases of H1N1 have shown up in 48 states, and 11 people in the U.S. have died from the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 42 countries have confirmed cases of the disease, which has sickened 11,168 people and caused 86 deaths, the World Health Organization reports.

The Durham case was discovered because the person was hospitalized for an unrelated illness and was tested for the virus. The person was recovering at home Tuesday, officials said.

The UNC Health Care worker, who works at University Pediatrics, on Highgate Drive in Durham, was tested because he or she is a health care worker. The clinic was operating on a normal schedule Tuesday, and officials were monitoring the situation to see if any co-workers or patients exhibit flu-like symptoms.

Engel said not all suspected cases of H1N1 are tested because the volume would overwhelm the state lab. The state is testing according to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

"We do it by sampling. We don't do it by testing everybody," he said.

The state lab tests every case that involves hospitalization and special circumstances, such as people in schools, day care centers or health care settings.

A network of about 80 medical practices statewide also has test kits that allow them to screen for the virus and collect data for the CDC, Engel said.

"These are private practices. They are university student health clinics. Some of them are in local health departments," he said. "That (data) gives us a general idea about flu activity in the state."

Engel said he expects commercial labs to be able to test for swine flu in coming months, which would allow every potential case to be tested.

Right now, though, he said testing isn't a top priority because H1N1 is treated and prevented like seasonal flu, he said. People should wash their hands frequently, cover their faces when the cough or sneeze and stay home if they feel sick, he said.

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  • DizzyDaphnee Jun 2, 2009

    Very sick with flu recently, went to UNC, sat in clinic over 3 hours, couldn't breathe well, ending up leaving after seeing they were not even concerned. PATHETIC. UNC is a JOKE!

  • teacher56 May 27, 2009

    Hey folks, there is a lot more flu, swine or otherwise, going on in NC. I am a teacher and I have children out due to "flu." Every classroom in my hall has had sickness. They say they are testing people in school but they are not testing the kids that I know of.

  • affirmativediversity May 27, 2009

    My point is...they (State and Federal government) went off on a nutty tangent with this. Spending millions of dollars NOT ON FUTURE STRAINS but on standing grandizing and scare mongering.

    How much did these 12 cases of the flu cost us? I happen to think that is a fair question. How much attention has been given to other communicable desease brought to us from our unchecked neighbors to the south? How about TB? How many cases of TB have we had in NC in the past year? Where did they originate? How about measles, mumps or rebella? Have we seen an increase in those JUST AS SERIOUS deseases? WHY NO BIG ALERT ABOUT THAT?

    Has it dawned on you that maybe, just maybe the reason only 12 cases have been reported is because WE'VE ONLY HAD 12 CASES!

    Oh and the "what happens if someone dies" SCARE TACTIC...people die EVERYDAY, that doesn't mean I want my government or medical professionals to start running around like a chicken with its head cut off, yelling "the sky is falling".

  • coolwill May 27, 2009

    this is not the common flu, it your familiy member die from it what will you call it then?

  • dbcooper41 May 27, 2009

    it's amazing how well they "predicted" htese mutations.

  • Orange RN May 26, 2009

    Flu is unpredictable, especially a new strain that enters a population with no immunity. Just be glad that you do not live in a place that has been hit hard, like NYC.

  • affirmativediversity May 26, 2009

    So tell us. How much money did you waste on 12 cases of the flu?