May 2, 2009
3rd suspected swine flu case tests negative
State lab rules out strain as county waits on confirmation of other probable case
Test results for a third person suspected of having swine flu in Cortland County have come back negative from a state Health Department laboratory, public health officials said Friday.
The patient, described only as a Cortland County resident who recently went to California, was thought unlikely to actually be ill with swine flu, but the case was submitted as a precaution, according to the Cortland County Health Department.
Health officials are still awaiting the results of the second reported case, which has been deemed a “probable case” since a nasal swab test taken from a county resident returned a positive result Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a component of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, was checking the results and had not responded as of Friday afternoon.
Catherine Feuerherm, Cortland County public health director, said the laboratories are operating slower now that the number of suspected cases is growing nationally, but she hopes to receive the result soon.
She said the Centers for Disease Control moved equipment for testing swine flu Friday to Wadsworth Center, a state laboratory in Albany, to confirm cases faster, but the sample of the probable case in the county has already been shipped to another site. The Centers for Disease Control’s headquarters are in Atlanta, but they have many other laboratories, Feuerherm said. She said she does not know where the probable case is being tested.
This person has been identified as a girl who lives in Cortland County, attends Fabius-Pompey High School in Onondaga County and recently traveled to Mexico on a personal trip.
The high school student is no longer infectious and can return to her normal activities, local health officials have said.
The virus has an incubation period after the onset of symptoms of seven to 10 days, during which a person who has the virus is contagious, Feuerherm said. People who have swine flu should stay at home for this amount of time after symptoms begin and 24 hours after symptoms end, she said.
“As people with possible or confirmed cases go back and resume activities, we need community to know there is no threat of contact,” Feuerherm said.
The county County Health Department had been investigating the symptoms of the person who traveled to California to determine if it met the case definition. The department submitted it to the state Health Department Thursday to be tested at Wadsworth Center.
Dr. Stuart Gillim, medical advisor for the county Health Department, said Thursday that this third case was probably not swine flu but that the department decided to submit it “just in case.”
The first suspected case of swine flu in Cortland County, a man who lives in the county and works in southern Madison County, returned negative.
The Centers for Disease Control has changed its guidelines so that recommended testing and treatment does not change between “probable” and “confirmed” cases, Feuerherm said.
But, if the high school student’s case is confirmed, the local case definition will change, Feuerherm said.
The new criteria, or criteria for classifying possible cases as suspected cases, will be anyone with acute febrile respiratory illness who resides in an area where there are one or more confirmed cases. The current case definition only includes people who have traveled to an affected region or have been in close contact with someone who has traveled to an affected region.
But once there is a confirmed case, health officials will stop testing people with mild to moderate symptoms and only test people with serious symptoms, Feuerherm said.
After initially closing all schools in the district Thursday and Friday, Fabius-Pompey Central School District will now keep the schools closed all of next week, said Peter Mahunik, business administrator for the district.
This decision came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed it guideline for school districts with a probable case. The organization was telling these schools to close for seven days after a student shows symptoms, but is now telling them to close for 14 days, Mahunik said.
“Our decision is based on that and the stronger recommendations from the Onondaga County Health Department,” Mahunik said.
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