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First Case Of Swine Flu Confirmed In Hunterdon County

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Hunterdon County Department of Health reported the first confirmed case of swine-origin novel influenza A (H1N1). A specimen sent Monday, June 1 to the N.J. Department of Health and Senior Services laboratory tested positive, making this the first diagnosed incidence in the county since the national outbreak began in April. The specimen was collected from a 16-year-old male resident who attends school in Mercer County.

“As we said in April when this national outbreak was first detected, we expected to see this influenza strain arrive here in Hunterdon at some point,” reported John Beckley, health officer and director of the Hunterdon County Department of Health. “We’ve already been in preparedness mode for weeks, with heightened epidemiological surveillance and collaborative planning between agencies.”

The county health department as part of the national Health Alert Network and New Jersey’s Local Information Network & Communication System (LINCS) uses multiple methods to keep both private and public entities up to date with new developments about this flu. The focus of communication has been primary health care providers and school systems. Encouraging local schools to follow CDC guidelines for excluding students having influenza symptoms is vital to limiting spread of this illness in Hunterdon County. Specifically, this means students should be kept home for a full seven days after the onset of first symptoms.

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“Up until now, we’ve been using LINCS to update health care providers and schools in the county,” said Rose Puelle, director of the health department’s Public Health Preparedness division. “With this confirmed case now detected, we will widen our reach to include other parties likely to be impacted should the footprint of this influenza widen here. We strive to be ahead of any crisis curve so people can begin to prepare.”

Swine-origin novel influenza A (H1N1) is a new flu virus that infects people and is capable of spreading from person-to-person, fueling the outbreak of illness across the U.S. An increasing number of cases are being reported internationally as well.

”Although this is a new virus, we’ve learned thus far that it spreads the same way as regular seasonal influenza,” said Beckley. “That is, mainly through coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with the virus.” Knowing these specifics has prompted the county health department to promote the traditional “respiratory etiquette” practices stressed during flu season.

“The best way to reduce your risk of getting or spreading the flu is to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze,” said Puelle. “And be sure to discard the tissue in the trash after you use it. Also very important, be sure to wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaners, especially after you cough or sneeze; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; and stay home for a full seven days if you get sick.”

According to Beckley, people should stay home from work or school and limit contact with others for a full seven days to keep from infecting them. “This single measure, coupled with the personal hygiene measures, can help contain the outbreak,” said Beckley.