How serious is H1N1?

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Health officials have confirmed six cases of the H1N1 virus in New Hanover County.

While officials won't say which daycare center is involved in the most recent case, they will say the so-called "swine flu" is not as dangerous as they once thought it would be.

Government officials initially though the virus would become a pandemic, but after tracking H1N1, they say it's just a different strain of the flu and people should treat it the same as seasonal flu.

As the news spread of H1N1, flu masks popped up all over the world, but New Hanover County health officials say the virus has been mild in the United States.

"We've, over the last few months, been watching the cases and the symptoms and the hospitalizations and the few deaths that we've had," said Janet McCumbee with NHC Personal Health Services.  "They've now realized that at this point, the H1N1 virus is no different than seasonal flu."

Each year 200,000 people are hospitalized with the seasonal flu and 36,000 die from flu related complications.

So far, there have been just over 13,000 cases of H1N1 in the US and only 27 deaths.  No one in North Carolina has died from the virus.

"It's a new strain, novel strain, of the virus and in that, we're are being very cautious, however we don't need to panic," said McCumbee.  "We need to do the things we normally do during the winter for seasonal flu."

The six confirmed cases in New Hanover County have all been in younger children.  According to the health department, adults have called in with symptoms, but they do not test people for the H1N1 strain unless they are in high risk populations, like the very young or very old.

They say commonly used flu treatments are working against the H1N1 strain.

"There are medications for the flu and this virus does seem to be susceptible to that, so many people that have the virus are getting treated and they get well very quickly," said McCumbee.

If you feel like you may have the flu, doctors say you should stay home, drink lots of fluids, and get plenty of rest.

You only need to go to the hospital and get tested for the strain if your doctor thinks it's necessary.

©2009 WECT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.