NY State Confirms Two More Flu Cases
New York State Department of Health announced that testing at its Wadsworth Laboratories confirmed two new cases of H1N1 (swine flu) in Albany and Greene counties. These are the first confirmed H1N1 cases in each of those counties.
These additional cases are cause for concern, but they should not be cause for panic or alarm. Our Health Department is using all of its resources and working diligently with its local and national partners to ensure the public remains healthy and safe as we confront this crisis.
To date, a total of 333 laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine flu) have been identified in New York State, including 227 cases in New York City and 106 cases in 17 counties outside of New York City. We expect that laboratory-confirmed cases represent only a fraction of the likely number of cases in the State because many individuals with mild symptoms do not seek care from a doctor or hospital but recover at home.
Although there have been some hospitalizations and one known swine-flu related death in the State, the overwhelming majority of affected individuals continue to have only mild to moderate symptoms similar to ordinary seasonal influenza. Most New Yorkers with this type of influenza recover without needing hospitalization or antiviral treatment. Still, any influenza virus can cause severe illness, so we continue to closely monitor the outbreak, provide information and guidance to the public while implementing any necessary precautionary measures.
Recently, a few hospitals in the New York City area reported an increase in individuals coming to their emergency departments with mild flu-like symptoms. These hospitals describe most of these individuals as “the walking well.” We do not want our hospital emergency departments to be overwhelmed by patients who could better recover by staying home.
The State Health Department is closely monitoring emergency department activity and is in close communication with hospitals around the State, especially hospitals in areas of New York City experiencing widespread H1N1 (swine flu) activity. The Health Department and hospitals have plans to provide surge capacity in the event it is necessary. However, this should not be necessary if people follow the recommendation to stay home unless they are experiencing severe illness.
The best way to prevent additional cases of flu in our schools, day care centers and work settings is for people with symptoms to stay home and talk with their health care providers if necessary. Symptomatic individuals staying home should not return to work or school for at least 24 hours after their major symptoms resolve or for 7 days from when their symptoms started, whichever is longer. Unless you are experiencing more severe illness, don’t go to the emergency department. This is important, because individuals without the illness or with mild cases could actually increase their chances of catching H1N1 (swine flu) or transmitting it to other people by visiting a hospital emergency department unnecessarily.
Individuals without symptoms who fall into a high-risk group and think they may have been exposed to H1N1 (swine flu), should seek medical advice from the health care providers who know them best. High-risk groups include:
o People age 65 years or older or children under 5 years of age;
o People with underlying health problems, including diabetes, asthma and emphysema;
o People with compromised immune systems as a result of illness or medicines;
o Pregnant women; and,
o People under 19 years of age on long-term aspirin therapy.
Individuals in these groups may be advised by their health care providers to take preventive medications, such as Tamiflu or Relenza. That said, I want to emphasize that most people who get the flu do not need to seek medical care and do not need to be tested for H1N1 (swine flu). The State Health Department is only recommending testing for H1N1 (swine flu) in certain limited circumstances, such as individuals experiencing severe symptoms and individuals with symptoms in areas of the State where cases have not yet been identified. Most people with flu-like symptoms don’t require testing and should stay at home until they have fully recovered. Before visiting an emergency department, individuals should call their health care provider for advice.
The precautionary measures we have discussed since the beginning of the outbreak continue to be the most effective measures we should all take to reduce the risk of getting or transmitting the flu:
o Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are also effective.
o Keep hands away from your face, Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
o Avoid people who are ill, if possible.
o Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
o Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and dispose of the tissue in a covered trash bin.
o Clean shared space frequently, including steering wheels, phone receivers, keyboards, and other office equipment.
o Do not drink out of the same cup or container used by another person or share personal items, such as forks, spoons, toothbrushes and towels.”