Local News

N.C. swine flu costs top $3 million

Posted June 19, 2009 1:35 p.m. EDT
Updated June 19, 2009 4:58 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina spent an estimated $3.1 million to $3.3 million battling the swine flu outbreak from late April through mid-June, state officials said Friday.

More than 100 cases of the flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, have been reported statewide. Most cases are in the eastern half of the state, with Wake, Orange and Johnston counties accounting for 42 cases combined.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said H1N1 testing added $1.9 million in personnel costs between April 21 and May 15, as technicians worked several 16-hour days. Having county health departments, regional surveillance teams hospitals and other groups monitor the spread of the virus cost another $750,000, officials said.

Obtaining test kits and laboratory supplies so technicians at the public health lab in Raleigh could test for the virus – local testing provides faster results than sending suspect samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – cost $50,000, and shipping anti-viral medications to counties statewide to treat swine flu cases cost $75,000, officials said.

Officials estimated the state has racked up another $250,000 to $500,000 in expenses battling swine flu since May 15.

The World Health Organization declared swine flu a pandemic last week – the first pandemic declaration in 41 years – because the number of confirmed cases of H1N1 had topped 30,000 and continued to rise across several continents.

In the U.S., the number of swine flu cases exceeds 21,000, and 87 people in the U.S. have died from the illness, according to the CDC.

The last time the state expended as many resources on a public health issue was during the anthrax scare of 2001.

State officials said some of the swine flu costs were covered in the 2008-09 budget, and the state also will use money from the federal government to cover some of the costs.