Third ‘probable’ case of H1N1 flu identified in Lee
With five confirmed H1N1 flu cases in Florida, the state surgeon general has declared a public health emergency, and a toll-free information line has been set up for the public for those with questions.
The telephone number is (800) 342-3557, and the line is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
In Lee County, two cases have been confirmed. Both are students at Spring Creek Elementary School, which is presently closed but is expected to reopen Monday.
As of Monday, there was another “probable” case in Lee County, according to Jennifer James-Mesloh, spokesperson for the Lee County Health Department.
She quoted Judith A. Hartner, the Lee County Health Department director, as saying, “We continue to work with our health care partners to ensure appropriate care of these individuals and others who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms. We will continue to monitor children attending Spring Creek Elementary for any other suspect cases.”
Typically, the H1N1 flu brings a fever of above 100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C, and the person has a cough, sore throat, headache and body aches. Also among the symptoms are chills and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting have been reported to occur.
“It is very important for individuals who think they might have been exposed to swine (H1N1) flu to contact their health care provider as quickly as possible,” Hartner said. “Rapid treatment is the key to recovery.”
While Spring Creek Elementary is closed, students should remain at home and indoors, according to Hartner. They must avoid large gatherings, such as movies, shopping malls, sporting events and church.
The H1N1 flu is not transmitted by food and it is not caught by eating pork products, she said. There is no cure or vaccine, but drugs called antivirals — taken under a doctor’s supervision — can reduce the symptoms, if they are taken early.
According to James-Mesloh, health department medical personnel have been working with the Lee County School District to identify and contact parents of any Spring Creek Elementary student who became sick last week.
“LCHD medical personnel began reviewing last week’s school health records to identify all children seen by the school nurse,” she said. “For those Spring Creek Elementary children that saw the school nurse and had fevers, LCHD nurses have been calling their parents this weekend to determine the child’s current health.”
Showing symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to H1N1 flu, but it is best to check with a doctor about possible treatment.
The other Florida cases are in Pinellas County where a 24-year-old man has been confirmed as having the H1N1 flu, and in Broward and Orange counties with one confirmed case in each.
In addition to the probable case in Lee County, Hillsborough County has five probable cases, Miami Dade has three, Palm Beach County is reported to have two cases, and there is one each in the counties of Alachua, Indian River, Okeechobee and Clay.
A total of 226 confirmed cases and the death of a 23-month-old child have been reported in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The World Health Organization maintains a phase 5 alert level, which is described as “a strong signal that the pandemic is imminent … “
According to a prepared statement Monday from Gov. Charlie Crist’s office, physicians and hospitals from all over the state send samples to the Florida Department of Health for analysis, and the department has activated a response plan to be ready to address any occurring cases.
It reads in part:
“The Department of Health continues enhanced surveillance and outreach to physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals. The surveillance system, consisting of sentinel physicians reporting influenza activity, DOH laboratories receiving specimens from physicians and hospitals and our ability to monitor emergency room cases and over-the-counter drug sales is fully operational. We have activated our response plan and are ready to respond to any cases of swine flu if it should occur.”
The governor’s office also states:
“Department of Health continues its enhanced surveillance with a network of sentinel physician providers. These providers send selected samples of laboratory specimens to state laboratories for testing if they have patients with influenza-like illness. These physicians also continue to report weekly ILI cases to the Department of Health.
“Antivirals have been pre-positioned to areas of potential need. We have over one half million individual courses,” it adds.