No swine flu confirmed in Rowan since toddler’s case

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
The Rowan County Health Department has tested seven people for swine flu since a 3-year-old tested positive on June 11, but all have been negative.
Nora Cartner, adult public health nurse supervisor for the department, said five of the seven tested for swine flu ó its technical name is the H1N1 novel flu ó were children referred by their pediatricians according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Of the remaining two, she said one was referred by a general practitioner and the other was an elderly person treated at the Health Department.
All seven tested were exhibiting the cold-like symptoms characteristic of swine flu. Cartner said testing is done with a throat or nasopharyngeal swab, for which nurses stick a swab through the nose to obtain a culture from the opening to the throat.
Sometimes, a nasopharyngeal swab is more accurate than a throat swab. “It’s not so much pain,” she said. “It’s just uncomfortable.”
The Rowan child who tested positive for swine flu attends a Cabarrus County day-care center. Another 3-year-old at the center who lives in Cabarrus also tested positive, according to Dr. William “Fred” Pilkington, public health director for the Cabarrus Health Alliance.
Pilkington said both children were tested for the flu after exhibiting cold-like symptoms during doctor visits for other health issues.
Judy Lawrence, communicable disease nurse specialist for the alliance, said there have been no new cases of swine flu in Cabarrus. Because doctors are free to send patients’ specimens to outside laboratories, she said, there is no way to determine the total number of people tested.
Because of the high risk of a swine flu outbreak, Cartner said the CDC requires doctors to be tested who see patients in day-care centers, long-term facilities and hospitals who are exhibiting symptoms.
“We may limit the number tested in one facility until we get some positive results back,” she said.
Cartner said the main difference between swine flu and the regular seasonal flu is that the incidence of swine flu is higher in the 5 to 24 and 65 and older age groups. As of June 17, there were 124 confirmed cases of swine flu in 31 North Carolina counties. Twenty-eight new cases were reported last week.
Case counts are updated on the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Web site every Wednesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 17,855 confirmed cases nationwide as of June 12. Of those, 45 resulted in death.
On June 11, the World Health Organization raised the worldwide pandemic alert to Phase 6 in response to the ongoing global spread of the swine flu. To date, more than 70 countries are now reporting cases of swine flu.
The decision to raise the pandemic alert level is a reflection of the spread of the virus, not the severity of illness caused by the virus, according to the CDC Web site.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.