Many of Pennsylvania’s probable cases of H1N1 virus have links to Mexico.
Pennsylvania’s head doctor says perhaps two-thirds of the probable cases of the H1N1 virus in the state have a direct, or close, link to Mexico.
State physician Stephen Ostroff says there are 18 probable cases of the new flu in Pennsylvania.
Ostroff: We’ve had a number of Commonwealth citizens who have traveled to Mexico mostly for holidays, we also have had a number of individuals from Mexico that are here for work-related reasons or are Mexican citizens that have been identified with this.
Other reports come from households where someone lived or visited who was in Mexico recently. That Mexico-connection is higher than the national average, according to Secretary of Health Everette James. He says across the US only about 35 percent of confirmed or probable cases have a clear link to Mexico. The virus is contagious, but it’s not clear how easily it’s spread between people.
Last week all of Pennsylvania’s probable cases were in Philadelphia or Montgomery counties. They are now spread among 11 counties.
Early reports about the quick spread and death toll of the H1N1 virus prompted Mexico to close businesses and schools, and cancel large public meetings.
Dr. Ostroff says those social distancing strategies made sense two weeks ago but says growing knowledge about the virus has tempered the public health response to the new flu. Ostroff says people with a probable case of H1N1 virus in Pennsylvania have been treated with anti-flu drugs and asked to isolate themselves at home until they recover.
Ostroff: There’s nothing that we see right now that would suggest to us other types of community mitigation strategies would be necessary right now.
There are two confirmed case of the new flu in Pennsylvania, but Secretary James says many of the 18 probable cases will likely turn out to be the H1N1 virus. James says nationally about 95 percent of the suspected samples processed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been verified as H1N1.
James: We of course are looking forward to getting the ability to test for H1N1 in our own lab, so that we do not any longer have this time delay waiting for the CDC backlog to clear so we can let you know that we do have additional confirmed cases.
Health providers from around the state send in about 20 to 50 flu specimens to the public health lab each day. Testing equipment has arrived at the lab in Lionville, but James says officials need a day or so of training before testing can begin.