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confirmed cases in asheville

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roguedog View Drop Down
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    Posted: May 31 2009 at 10:49pm
confirmed on may 29th
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Here is the link: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090529/NEWS01/90529055/1009

Swine flu confirmed in Mission Hospital employee

staff reports • May 29, 2009 05:16 PM

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ASHEVILLE — Buncombe County health officials have confirmed one case of swine flu in a Mission Hospital employee.

This is the first confirmed case of the novel H1N1 virus in Buncombe County.

The state laboratory today confirmed that a nurse in the hospital’s endoscopy unit who fell ill earlier in the week with flu symptoms has the new H1N1 virus.

Ten employees, 11 patients, one physician, and one nurse anesthetist who were exposed to the flu symptoms, along with the woman’s family, are being treated with anti-viral medications, according to the hospital.

None of the exposed individuals have shown symptoms of the flu, and the nurse has been isolating herself at home. No other clusters or cases of virus have been identified in Buncombe County, and no one has shown up at the hospital or at local physician’s offices with symptoms of the virus.

“It appears that this one episode is fairly well contained at this point and we are encouraged that there are no new cases showing up in the emergency room,” said Dr. Dale Fell, Mission’s chief medical officer.

Buncombe County Health Director Gibbie Harris said that health officials are continuing to investigate who the infected woman came into contact with. She said because the county now has its first confirmed case, it is possible that there could be more cases of swine flu throughout the summer and fall.

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in North Carolina has jumped by 50 percent in the past two days and the state now has 21 total cases of swine flu. Along with the new case in Buncombe County, state health officials confirmed new cases in Orange and Onslow counties today and three cases in New Hanover County and one in Brunswick County on Thursday.

Federal health officials have counted about 9,000 confirmed swine flu cases nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked the virus to 15 deaths in the United States.

“We do know that it is in our community, so we do expect to see more cases,” Harris said.

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Fell said that the nurse, who lives in Buncombe County, works in the recovery area of the endoscopy unit at the hospital. He said that she reported feeling sick with flu-like symptoms on Tuesday. She was screened for the flu at the employee health center at the hospital, given anti-viral medication and sent home.

Fell said the hospital, working with local, state and federal health officials, immediately started to find out who the nurse had contact with and could have been exposed to the virus.

He said the majority of the patients who the infected woman had contact with were at the unit for outpatient procedures, and did not have compromised immune systems, which could have put them at higher risk for developing complications from the virus. Fell said the endoscopy unit is fairly well-contained and the nurse did not have contact with patients on any other wards.

“As soon as we found out it was flu, not knowing what kind it was, we went ahead and inventoried who was exposed and started them on Tamiflu,” Fell said. “Now that it is confirmed, we are ensuring everyone is taking it and are in daily contact with all 23 people.”

Fell said the hospital sent out a memo to its more than 6,000 employees, along with local physicians, after confirming that the nurse had swine flu on Friday. He said the hospital has been on heightened awareness since the virus started circulating earlier this spring and has been working to educate employees about the virus.

“Our hospital and the health center and the state with the CDC have all been keeping a close eye on this,” he said. “Even a month ago or longer we were sending information to employees talking about early warning signs and what to do if they are sick … Everyone was sort of tuned into it.”

Fell said the hospital is not taking any additional precautions following the confirmed case. He said because of the increased awareness about the virus, the hospital and health officials were able to quickly catch and contain the current case.

None of the 23 people who had contact with the nurse, or her family members, have come down with symptoms of the virus, although health officials are continuing their investigation. Harris said they may have to administer anti-viral medications to more residents as they learn more about who the nurse came into contact with.

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“Right now we believe we have taken care of people that are most at risk,” she said.

Harris said she did not know how the woman contracted the virus, but that because the virus is circulating in the state, determining a travel history for confirmed cases is not as important as it was when the virus first surfaced.

The state also scaled back testing for swine flu earlier this month. Suspected cases are now sent to the state lab for testing only if a person has symptoms of the illness and is hospitalized, or if there is a cluster of classes in areas where there is a high-risk of transmission, like at the hospital.

“We have this virus in our community; How it got here, I’m not sure,” Harris said. “The threshold for testing is so high now we have cases that we probably don’t know about and because this flu is as mild or milder than most cases of seasonal flu, there could easily be more in the community infected and we’re not aware of it.”

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

To help prevent transmission of the virus, health officials are telling residents to stay home if they are sick, wash their hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, cover their mouth and nose when coughing are sneezing, and avoid close contact with those who are sick.

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