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N.C. preparing for second wave of swine flu

State health officials say the H1N1 influenza virus is here to stay and that they are preparing for a second wave of virus to hit by September.

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WILSON, N.C. — North Carolina public health officials said Friday that the so-called swine flu is here to stay and that they are preparing for a second wave of virus to hit by September.

"We're going to plan worst case scenario," Doug Hoell, state emergency management director, said Friday. "That's how we always do business. We plan for worst case, and you see how it develops. We want to be in front of it."

Speaking during a presentation to the State Emergency Response Commission, Julie Casani, director of preparedness and response for the state Division of Public Health, said one of the major concerns has to do with the timing of a vaccine for the novel H1N1 Influenza A strain.

The second wave is now hitting South America and is expected to hit North America sometime this fall.

The vaccine isn't expected to be ready and available until mid-October at the earliest, and state health officials are developing a plan to immunize every North Carolina resident on a voluntary basis.

"Our plan is to vaccinate everybody – 9 million people in North Carolina," Casani said. "So, we're planning on 9 million vaccinations, two doses per person."

As of July 11, there have been 395 confirmed cases of H1N1 in 64 North Carolina counties and four deaths. About 12 percent of the cases have required hospitalization.

"We certainly have seen it in the state. It continues to spread, but as of right now, we're not one of the hardest hit states," said Dr. Oren Cohen, chief medical and scientific officer for Quintiles Transnational and infectious diseases expert.

Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday 40,617 confirmed and probably cases and 263 deaths. Texas, Illinois, California, Florida and New York top the list with the most reported cases.

But CDC officials estimate more than 1 million Americans have been infected with the virus so far, though many probably had only a mild illness.

As of last week, there were nearly 95,000 cases of H1N1 reported by the World Health Organization, including 429 deaths.

The virus is so widespread now, health officials in North Carolina and around the world announced Friday they are no longer tracking the numbers.

Health officials say one of the best ways to help lower risk to the flu is to practice basic prevention tips, which include frequent hand washing, avoiding others exhibiting symptoms and staying at home, if sick.


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