Local News

Swine flu spreads across N.C.

Posted June 10, 2009 4:58 p.m. EDT
Updated June 11, 2009 8:16 a.m. EDT

— There are 59 cases of the H1N1 virus in North Carolina. Four new cases, an adult and three children, were confirmed Wednesday in Johnston County.

Chatham County also has three new cases of the illness, which is also called swine flu. Its cases involve two students at Horton Middle School and a preschool-aged child who does not attend school.

"We've had a good number of calls about it (H1N1),” said Dr. Renee Johnson, with Apex Pediatrics Center.

Johnson's office put together a task force to help patients concerned about the illness. State health officials say it is getting tougher to keep up with the number of people with flu-like symptoms.

"We're now at the point where we are telling clinicians if they see flu-like illness, fever, cough, sore throat, that they should consider that to be H1N1 and act accordingly," said Dr. Megan Davies, with the N.C. Department of Health.

Due to all the new cases, the World Health Organization is close to declaring a swine flu pandemic, a move that would mean the virus is widespread around the world, and could trigger a large-scale vaccine production.

The designation would also prompt the state health department to test less, and to stop providing daily numbers of how many people are infected.

"We'll talk more about what percentage of doctor visits are related to flu-like illness, rather than specific numbers because the number of cases will be such that it will be difficult to keep up with them on a daily basis," Davies said.

Drugmakers are on track to have a H1N1 vaccine in the fall.

"I think there's been enough information out there and media attention that people will be very interested in getting that flu shot," Johnson said.

Health officials say people in high-risk groups, such as children under age five, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions, need to be extra careful and see a doctor if they feel sick.

Ways you can help prevent the transmission of the H1N1 virus are:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick
  • Stay at home if you are sick

Influenza-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea or vomiting associated with this virus.

Like seasonal flu, the H1N1 virus can vary in severity from mild to severe. This strain of influenza appears to be milder than the seasonal influenza.