Local News

Durham County confirms first case of H1N1

Posted May 23, 2009 6:06 p.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2009 4:07 p.m. EDT

— Public Health Director Gayle B. Harris announced Saturday afternoon that officials have confirmed Durham County’s first case of swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus.

The infected person is being treated in an area hospital. Harris said anybody who could be affected by the case has been notified. She would not say how old the person is, or where he or she works, only that it was  "not a high-risk environment."

The Durham County case is also unrelated to the Orange County case announced Friday, Harris said.

UNC Medical Center officials said the infected Orange County worker may have exposed up to 17 pediatric patients, and 10 other employees to the virus at University Pediatrics, 5322 Highgate Drive in Durham. Those potentially infected people have been contacted and do not appear to be showing symptoms, officials said.

Orange County health workers say the infected person started showing symptoms on Monday. His or her name is not being released, and the person is being confined to their home.

The health director says there is no need to panic.

“I don’t think there’s any cause for panic. This is a flu-like illness, as you all know. It for the most part is mild in nature,” said Dr. Rosemary Summers, Orange County health director.

The Orange County Health Department has dealt with these types of infectious illnesses before. There was a case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in the county in 2003.

“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,” Summers said.

Summers urged people who are sick, however, to stay home.

"You really should not be in large public gatherings. You should stay home from work, and you should stay home from social engagements," she said.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said that two new cases bring the total number of cases in North Carolina to 14.

The two recent cases have some area doctors fielding more questions about swine flu.

"What we have seen to this point are people that are worried that they might have swine flu without necessarily having the symptoms,” said Dr. Scott McGeary, with Accent Urgent Care.

McGeary said H1N1 is treatable and most people should be fine.

"Healthy individuals need to kind of pay attention to their health the same way they always do, not more, not less,” he said.

The virus was first detected last month, and at least 42 countries now have confirmed it in more than 11,000 people. At least 85 people have died from it.

The confirmed cases don't represent anywhere near the full scope of the outbreak: For every reported case of swine flu, there may be 20 people sickened with it, said CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat - more than 100,000 people in the U.S. There are signs that it is declining in parts of the country, although school-related outbreaks in New York City and elsewhere have led to the closings of about 60 schools affecting 42,000 students, Schuchat said.