Local News

UNC health care worker is latest H1N1 case

Posted May 22, 2009 6:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2009 8:14 a.m. EDT

— A UNC Health Care staff member, who was later confirmed to have the H1N1 virus, came in contact with patients and staff at the University Pediatrics at Highgate clinic in Durham this week, UNC Medical Center officials said.

The infected worker might have exposed up to 17 pediatric patients to the virus, UNC Medical Center officials said. Some of the affected patients are 5 years old and younger.

In addition to patients, up to 10 employees may have also been exposed.

This was the first confirmed case of H1N1 in the Triangle and the first new case in North Carolina in 10 days. There are 13 cases of the virus, also known as the swine flu, statewide.

All of those possibly affected by the Triangle case have been contacted. UNC officials said that they do not believe any of those contacted are experiencing symptoms and that patients who have been contacted should not worry.

Orange County officials said the worker started showing flu symptoms Monday. A checkup later confirmed the worker, who has not been named, had the H1N1 virus. The worker was self-isolated at home in Orange County.

The worker has already showing signs of improvement, officials said.

 “UNC Health Care has a renowned infectious disease program. I am confident that UNC Health Care advises their health care staff regarding appropriate measures to reduce the risk of disease spread,” stated Dr. Rosemary Summers, Orange County Health Director.

“I don’t think there’s any cause for panic. This is a flu-like illness, as you know. For the most part, it’s mild in nature,” Summers continued.

With the holiday weekend ahead, Summers urged people who are sick to stay home.

"You really shouldn't be in large public gatherings. You should stay home from work and social engagements," Summers said.

Statewide, there are seven cases in Craven County, two each in Onslow and Carteret counties, and one in Rutherford County.

There are no probable cases of the virus under investigation, officials said.

More than 6,500 cases of H1N1 have shown up in 48 states, and nine 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, most of them in North America, the World Health Organization reports.