BATON ROUGE—In accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the Louisiana Department of Health has changed its guidance for health care providers and the public on who should see a doctor, get tested and receive treatment for H1N1 influenza (swine flu).
LDH and CDC now recommend antiviral treatment of H1N1 flu only for hospitalized patients with confirmed or suspected H1N1, or those patients who are at higher risk for seasonal influenza complications, including children under five years old (especially those under two years old), adults 65 years of age and older, and people with the following conditions:
Chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, hematological (including sickle cell disease), neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus);
Immunosuppression, including that caused by medications or by HIV;
People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy; and
Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities.
“We are finding that this virus is behaving a lot like seasonal flu,” said LDH Secretary Alan Levine. “Most cases are relatively mild, and managed by otherwise healthy people at home. Nationwide, the majority of people who have H1N1 influenza at this time recover without special medical treatment of any kind.”
Under normal circumstances, there is no need for medical evaluation or specialized testing of mild illness. And for those who are only mildly ill with the flu, specialized testing and antiviral treatments do not have much impact on the course of recovery. So, the CDC and LDH have changed their guidance for people who have flu-like illness.
“People should seek medical attention for those signs and symptoms they normally would call their doctor for, but should NOT go to a health care provider if they are simply curious,” said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer.
“The nation has had only two deaths related to the current H1N1 outbreak, and both of those were people who were at high risk for complications from influenza,” Dr. Guidry said. “If you have these signs and symptoms and are feeling ill enough that you would normally go see your doctor, then you should do that. But if your symptoms are mild and you are NOT one of the high risk categories, then you should stay home and try to recuperate with rest and fluids. You might not even need any special medical testing, treatment or medicines.”
In other H1N1 news today:
LDH officials are investigating one new suspected case of H1N1 flu in Lafayette Parish. This brings the total number of suspected cases currently under investigation in Louisiana to 35. None of the 35 cases are in the hospital.
The sample of the new suspected case tested positive for type A Influenza, which could indicate either seasonal flu or the H1N1 virus. The H1N1 virus subtype is confirmed by CDC lab tests. Specimens for all suspected cases have been sent to the CDC lab in Atlanta for confirmation.
The Louisiana state public health laboratory has received 1,848 specimens since the first presence of the H1N1 virus. A total of 730 specimens have been tested.
In order to expand the state lab’s testing capabilities, the lab has borrowed a piece of equipment called an “analyzer” from the Association of Public Health Laboratories that is capable of “confirming” the H1N1 antigen, once the equipment is validated. This means that suspected H1N1 specimens will no longer have to be sent to Atlanta for confirmation.
According to CDC procedures, the lab must first validate existing type A samples on the new equipment to prove that employees have been properly trained to use it. Then the lab will begin validating H1N1 samples, positive H1N1 cases sent back from the CDC that must be confirmed independently using the new analyzer. Once these tests are complete, the state can use the equipment to conduct CDC-approved tests on existing and new specimens to confirm H1N1.
“The fact that we have only one new suspected case, that none of our cases are in the hospital, and that the CDC is relaxing guidance on testing and treatment makes me hopeful that we’ve passed the peak of this outbreak,” said Secretary Levine. “While we continue to take a cautious and watchful approach with the current outbreak, we have turned some of our attention toward re-evaluation of our current pandemic flu plan and aggressive planning for the fall flu season, in the event this virus makes a resurgence.”
"For example, the new equipment we have procured allows us to better process the influx of specimens entering our state lab today, and better equips us to handle a potential second wave of influenza that may threaten later this year,” Levine said.
SUSPECTED H1N1 CASES
• Lafayette Parish - 23 (up from 22 yesterday)
• Lafourche – 3
• Iberia – 2
• St. Landry – 2
• Ascension – 1
• Beauregard - 1
• Livingston – 1
• Orleans – 1
• St. Martin – 1
TOTAL – 35
CDC-CONFIRMED H1N1 CASES
• Lafayette – 5
• Ascension – 1
• Orleans – 1
TOTAL – 7
CDC-NEGATIVE H1N1 CASES
• St. Martin – 1
• St. Tammany - 1
TOTAL – 2
Protecting Your Family
As the agency does each day, Secretary Levine reminds citizens to take a cautious, common-sense approach to prevent the spread of influenza.
Make sure you:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
• Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
• Avoid close contact with sick people.
If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Visit www.FluLa.com for the latest information on the H1N1 virus.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.