Arkansas Announces First H1N1 Influenza A Virus

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Paul Halverson, State Health Officer and Director of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), said today that the state’s first five cases of the novel H1N1 influenza A virus (swine flu) have been confirmed—four cases in Pulaski County and one case in Lawrence County. The samples were tested and confirmed by the public health laboratory at ADH.

Illness has occurred in active duty service members from other states who are training at Camp Robinson. Service officials have notified other co-workers, family and friends who may have been in close contact with the patients.

A school-aged child from Walnut Ridge Elementary School in Lawrence County has also been confirmed positive for the virus.

“We felt certain that we would eventually see some cases of the novel H1N1 virus here in Arkansas,” Halverson said. “As the result of these diagnoses, we will be monitoring the conditions of close contacts of the patients in an effort to slow the spread for as long as we can. The good news is that the cases we have been seeing in the United States, for the most part, have been relatively mild and treatable with antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu and Relenza.”

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"Since Camp Robinson attracts over 30,000 service members annually from all 50 states and four territories, we anticipated the potential of this occurring on our training site," said Maj. Gen. William Wofford, the adjutant general of Arkansas. "Due to the proactive measures of our schools and medical professionals to plan for this exact scenario, along with close coordination with the Arkansas Department of Health, we were as prepared as possible for this situation."

"Once the first case was identified, steps were immediately taken to contain the spread of the illness we were dealing with,” General Wofford said.

Dr. Halverson said, “Now that we know we have the disease in the state, it is not necessary to test every suspected case. It is important to reserve testing materials for those most at risk for complications from the virus — those who are hospitalized with influenza-like illness, as well as pregnant women, and healthcare workers.

Dr. Halverson added, “In the meantime, we continue to urge Arkansans to follow the personal protection guidelines that have been recommended throughout the outbreak: frequent hand washing, avoiding those who are ill and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze. Symptoms of the swine flu are the same as those for seasonal flu: fever, body aches, coughing, sneezing and, sometimes, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for what people should do has shifted to reflect a response that is similar to what folks need to do for seasonal flu. If you have symptoms, please stay home. Call your doctor for advice on how to treat your illness.” Halverson said.

The Health Department has been in close contact with hospitals, physicians, schools, child care facilities, laboratories, and regional and local health officials throughout the state to provide guidance and monitor the number and location of suspected cases of illness.

“Working with the Health Department, we have kept school district administrators, school administrators and school nurses informed of appropriate steps to take in the event of a confirmed case on a daily basis,” said Dr. Ken James, Arkansas Commissioner of Education. “I have every confidence that our school officials will take appropriate steps to safeguard the health of our students.”

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