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First cases of H1N1 virus confirmed in county

Posted 10/21/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

We’ve been hearing about it all across the nation and it’s finally here – the H1N1 virus has been confirmed in Watford City and its surrounding area.
“We’ve had patients in the community and surrounding area test positive for Influenza A,” says Nancy Fevold, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems (MCHS) Infection Control director. “Some of those specimens have been sent to the State Health Department for further testing to determine if it is seasonal flu or H1N1.”
According to Fevold, a test that turns up positive for Type A Influenza can be either seasonal flu or H1N1. But because the North Dakota Department of Health has not had any positive Type A tests turn up as seasonal flu they are telling health care officials to assume that a positive Type A test is H1N1.
“Because the health department is being inundated with specimens, they have restricted each community to three H1N1 testing specimens per day,” adds Fevold. “So far our positive tests have come from children ages two to six and two teenagers.”
With H1N1 now confirmed in the county, McKenzie County School District No. 1 has informed its teachers and distributed information from MCHS on preventing the spread of H1N1.
“We have students out of school today, but no more than normal,” comments Steve Holen, McKenzie County School District No. 1 superintendent. “The school is taking precautions to help prevent the spread of the flu virus. If students are ill we urge them to stay home from school.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, the symptoms of the H1N1 flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea.
“Now that H1N1 has been confirmed, the district is aware and monitoring the situation.  However, we are progressing in a business as usual approach,” states Holen. “As with any flu season, students are encouraged to stay home when sick and healthy students are expected to be in school. We encourage parents to stay calm and continue to send students to school. Preventative measures are being attempted in each building to protect students as much as possible and help prevent any further spread of the virus. The school district will closely monitor the situation and address issues as they arise.”
Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something such as a surface or object with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
“There have been no hospitalizations as of yet,” adds Fevold. “All of our confirmed cases have been seen through an outpatient or emergency room basis with no one needing to be admitted. Antibiotics are not given unless there is a bacterial complication of influenza such as bacterial pneumonia, ear infection or sinusitis. Influenza is a virus and antibiotics do nothing against a virus. If the doctors feel an antiviral is needed, they will prescribe that, but mostly the treatment will be to rest, drink plenty of fluids, take acetaminophen and STAY HOME!”
Illness with the H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe, while nationally most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment. Hospitalizations and deaths from this virus have occurred.
“You do not need to see a doctor unless you develop worrisome symptoms,” suggests Fevold. “Such symptoms include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, purple or blue discoloration of the lips, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, not passing urine, or a lack of tears when crying in infants, confusion or less responsiveness than usual, seizures or convulsions, and severe vomiting or unable to keep fluids down.”
According to Fevold, MCHS has began to receive small shipments of the H1N1 vaccine with the first doses being designated for healthcare workers and the next shipment for pregnant women and those ages six to 18. As vaccine comes available MCHS will notify the public so those who wish to be vaccinated have the opportunity.
“We stress that ill people stay home unless they become seriously ill with the symptoms mentioned above,” adds Fevold. “There is also a hotline through the State Health Department that people can call if they have questions. The hotline can be reached Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-866-207-2880.