Newsroom > DHHS News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2009

CONTACT
Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047, cell (402) 416-9388 or marla.augustine@nebraska.gov

Note: Sound bites on this topic will be available later at: http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/audio.aspx

 

DHHS Sends Alert to Physicians
No New Probable or Confirmed Cases Reported Today

Lincoln—No new probable or confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine-origin) influenza have been reported in Nebraska from Sunday’s test results, but more are expected to be confirmed, according to Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“We expect more cases to be confirmed, but the Centers for Disease Control is being inundated with specimens to test. What was a 24-hour wait for test results is now several days,” she said.

There are five pending tests at the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory.

DHHS is releasing information by 9:00 a.m. daily about specimens that are either at the state laboratory pending testing, that have been sent to the CDC for confirmation, or have been confirmed.

Today’s report:

*New pending public health tests: 5

**New probable cases: 0

***New confirmed cases: 0

Eight previously reported cases are pending confirmation at CDC. Three Nebraska-related cases have been confirmed. Because two of these confirmed cases were residents of other states, the CDC’s Web site will reflect that Nebraska has one confirmed case. Nebraska will begin today reporting residents only so Nebraska’s Web site will, as of today, reflect only one case.

While the majority of specimens sent to the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory recently have been seasonal influenza, 27 percent (11 probable and confirmed) have been linked to the current H1N1 flu outbreak.

DHHS sent a health alert to physicians, emergency rooms and hospitals over the weekend with a case definition of the disease, guidance on when to test for the current outbreak of H1N1 and instructions on how to send specimens to the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory.

The case definition is a patient who exhibits a fever greater than 100 degrees and either a cough or sore throat. Providers who have a patient who meets this definition and are moderately to severely ill were instructed to give a rapid flu test. If the test is positive for influenza A, they were advised to send a specimen to the lab.

They were told that a history of travel to Mexico, southern California and other areas with H1N1 may not be useful in identifying cases.

“According to our real-time influenza surveillance, we can identify seasonal flu versus the current outbreak of H1N1 probable cases,” Dr. Schaefer said. “This helps physicians select the best antiviral for treatment.”

Antivirals can lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of influenza if taken within the first 48 hours after symptoms develop.

Providers were instructed to advise patients suspected of being ill with influenza to minimize their contact with other people by staying home from work and school, as well as additional advice on hand washing and cough etiquette (coughing into one’s sleeve rather than hand). DHHS asked providers to counsel people exposed to patients with influenza that they should enter modified quarantine: since they may develop influenza they should minimize their exposure to other people and be prepared to immediately isolate themselves at home at the onset of any flu symptoms.

Health care providers were advised to wear N95 respirators whenever possible around infectious patients or, in the absence of these respirators, to use standard surgical face masks for both staff and symptomatic patients.

Physicians are asked to contact their local health department if there is a positive rapid flu test. Those departments will obtain the necessary information for public health tracking, follow-up and infection control. (For a list of local health departments: http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Pages/puh_oph_lhd.aspx)

Advice

If you are moderately to severely ill with a cough, sore throat, fever and body aches (and perhaps vomiting and diarrhea), call your physician. First call the physician’s office and tell staff what symptoms you are experiencing. The physician may want to see you separately from other patients so that you don’t expose them in the waiting room. Your doctor can prescribe an antiviral for you, which will ease your symptoms and possibly shorten the duration of your illness.

For any flu-like illness:

  • People who are sick should stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  • Wash hands frequently.

For more information, see the DHHS web site: http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Pages/flu.aspx

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NOTE: Numbers of cases will be released by 9:00 a.m. A news release will be sent out and the numbers will be listed on the DHHS Web site. There will be a media briefing on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. CT. The phone number to call in is (402) 472-6899. Call no earlier than 1:45.

*Counties of residence will not be given for pending tests.

**The definition of a probable case is a case that has tested positive for influenza A and is not seasonal flu. The specimen will be sent to the CDC for confirmatory testing

***The definition of a confirmed case is one that the CDC has determined is a case of H1N1 influenza. There will be a daily confirmed and a cumulative confirmed number.