Swine flu case
is confirmed in
Beaufort County

Published 7:31 am Friday, July 17, 2009

Staff Writer

Public-health officials, renewing calls for North Carolina residents to take precautions after two people died from swine flu in eastern North Carolina, report Beaufort County has its first confirmed case of swine flu.
No one in Beaufort County has died from swine flu, also called H1N1 flu, said Kelli Russell, preparedness coordinator with the Beaufort County Health Department. She declined to provide any information about the one confirmed case. The statewide death total from swine flu is at four, including two recent deaths: one in Carteret County and one in Wilson County.
There likely are more swine-flu cases in Beaufort County because officials aren’t testing most flu cases, Russell said.
“If it’s positive for the flu, we’re just assuming it’s H1N1,” said Billie Whitfield, an infection control and prevention nurse with Beaufort Regional Health System.
That’s because normal flu has significantly decreased by summer, she said. The health system has confirmed more flu cases in the past month than in all of the past flu season, including seven cases in the past two weeks, Whitfield said.
“It’s not a normal time for flu,” Russell said.
Whitfield said officials continue monitoring cases, have posted signs at Beaufort County Medical Center urging patients admitted to the hospital to tell doctors immediately if they have flu-like symptoms and are trying to keep flu sufferers separate from other patients. She said visits from young children could be restricted in the future, but they aren’t yet.
The treatment for H1N1 is the same as for regular flu, Whitfield said: administering antivirals Tamiflu or Relenza to shorten the course of the virus. She urged those exposed to the flu to contact doctors and to stay home if sick.
Russell said people should wash their hands with soap and water often in an effort to try to stem the spread of the disease.
Right now, people who are less than 5 years old, are older than 65, have compromised immune symptoms or are pregnant are thought to be most at risk, though those criteria could change, Russell said.
The health department is gearing up to coordinate the distribution of an H1N1 flu vaccine in the fall, she said. That vaccine is expected to be available in October and likely will involve two doses delivered about a month apart, she said.
According to a health department news release, people should seek immediate medical care for children if they experience any of the following warning signs:
• fast or difficult breathing;
• bluish or grayish skin;
• dehydration;
• severe or persistent vomiting;
• inability to wake up or interact;
• irritability to the point the child does not want to be held;
• flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough.
In adults, the signs are:
• difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
• pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen;
• sudden dizziness;
• confusion;
•severe or persistent vomiting;
• flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever or a worse cough.