Toddler has Rowan's first confirmed swine flu case
By Kathy Chaffin
A 3-year-old is the first person in Rowan County to test positive for the novel H1N1 flu, commonly known as swine flu.
Nora Cartner, adult public health nurse supervisor for the Rowan County Health Department, said the case was reported to the department last Thursday. She said the child attended a Cabarrus County day-care center with a Cabarrus child who also tested positive for swine flu.
Dr. William “Fred” Pilkington, public health director for the Cabarrus Health Alliance, said both children were age 3 and were tested for the flu after exhibiting cold-like symptoms during doctor visits for other health issues.
“The children weren’t very ill then,” he said. “They had been doing their regular routines every day.”
After being tested by their pediatricians in Concord, Pilkington said, the children were retested for swine flu at the Cabarrus Health Alliance. “And they did test positively,” he said.
Cartner said Rowan Health Department officials advised the family of the Rowan child to take the precautions they would normally take with the flu. “We asked them to self-isolate in the home,” she said, and to keep the child home for 24 additional hours after being free of symptoms.
Pilkington said parents of the other children in the day-care center and the staff were informed of the case. However, he said, most parents chose not to keep their children home because the affected children were almost well by the time the cases were confirmed.
“We’re fairly sure this is not the index case, possibly not even in that day-care center,” he said. Pilkington said another child was sick with similar symptoms the week before the two cases were confirmed.
Cartner said there have probably also been more cases in Rowan.
“Just because we haven’t had any confirmed cases until this past week doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been here all along,” she said. “Most of the time, when we get calls from people who have symptoms that may be suggestive of this, we advise them to stay home and treat it like they would any other flu because it doesn’t seem to be any more serious than the regular flu.”
As with the regular flu, Cartner said, people with swine flu are advised to stay in bed, drink plenty of fluids “and that kind of thing.” It’s especially important for them to stay home, she said, “so that they don’t infect other people.”
Cartner said the main difference between swine flu and the regular flu is that the incidence of swine flu is higher in the 5 to 24 and 65 and older age groups. “Usually with the regular flu, we see it in all ages,” she said, adding however, that complications are more frequent with younger children and older adults.
The greatest public health threat of the swine flue virus, she said, is when there is an outbreak in facilities such as day-care centers, long-term care facilities and hospitals.
Pilkington released the information about the Cabarrus County case to the media when it was confirmed. “You’re not required to, but it’s always a good idea,” he said.
He said he did not release the information to the Salisbury media because that would be up to the discretion of Rowan County Health Department Director Leonard Wood.
Wood was on vacation Tuesday, but Cartner said he had the understanding that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was going to release information on the Rowan County case.
Carol Schriber, public information officer for the state department, said releasing news on swine flu cases is up to the discretion of the public health directors in the individual counties.
“If you have a disease outbreak that is food-related and is linked to a certain restaurant,” she said, “then the usual practice is to get information out by a news release because a lot of people may have gone to that restaurant.”
In situations where there is a small group of people who are easily identified, Schriber said, “a news release wouldn’t be appropriate then. We look at each particular situation and decide whether or not a news release would be appropriate and work with the local health department on when they put it out or we put it out.”
As of June 12, Cartner said there were 108 confirmed cases of swine flu virus in 28 North Carolina counties. 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 to Phase 6 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.