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H1N1 cases reported in Stanislaus and Merced counties

WHO declares a flu pandemic

POSTED June 27, 2009 3:52 p.m.
Stanislaus and Merced counties have reported two probable cases each of the H1N1 virus, while the global community prepares for a pandemic.
“The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.”
Those words were spoken Thursday by the World Health Organization’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, during a press conference in which she announced the raising of the WHO’s influenza pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6 due to growing worldwide cases of the H1N1 virus, known earlier as the swine flu.
Phase 6 is the highest level on WHO’s pandemic alert system and indicates a global pandemic. More than 70 countries are now reporting cases of the H1N1 flu.
“Although the pandemic appears to have moderate severity in comparatively well-off countries, it is prudent to anticipate a bleaker picture as the virus spreads to areas with limited resources, poor health care, and a high prevalence of underlying medical problems,” Chan said.
Also on Thursday, the Merced County Public Health Department reported positive lab results of the H1N1 virus in two residents of Merced County. The county health department considers these two cases probable of having the  H1N1 virus. They will not be confirmed cases until the state health department lab also reports positive results. According to Merced County Public Health Officer Dr. Richard Rios, they expect confirmation in the next few days.
Rios reported the two probable cases as an adult female who sought medical attention on June 6 and remains hospitalized and an under 18-year-old male who sought treatment on June 8 and has since made a full recovery at home.
Although both cases involve residents living in the westside communities of Merced County, Rios said it does not indicate clustering or localized outbreaks.
“Based on a pretty extensive follow-up investigation, there is no linkage between these two cases,” Rios said.
Stanislaus County has also had two probable cases of the H1N1 virus, but according to Public Health Officer Dr. John Walker, the county made the decision not to report the cases to the public until they have been confirmed by state lab results.
“We are continuing to work throughout the summer to prepare for another wave of infections,” Walker said.
Walker said the county is responding to the increasing number of H1N1 cases in California and nationwide by working closely with school systems and educating the business community and county employees on the virus.
“The important thing ...is that there are things (people) can do right now to prepare (such as) respiratory etiquette,” Walker said.
Respiratory etiquette includes covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, coughing into the elbow instead of the hand, and proper hand washing.
Walker also emphasized “if you’re sick, stay home.” He said that many sick people feel obligated to go into work, but in doing so they are infecting those around them. He also encouraged persons 65 years of age or older and those with a chronic disease to get the pneumonia vaccine.
“Most influenza deaths are related to pneumonia,” Walker said.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.
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