Statement from Richard F. Daines, M.D., Commissioner

April 30, 2009

Governor Paterson's decision to activate New York State's health emergency preparedness plan has enabled us to quickly respond to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak. The Governor has pledged all necessary resources for New York State's response to this outbreak to mitigate its impact on New Yorkers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received last night the specimens from the three suspect cases of H1N1 in Suffolk, Orange, and Cortland counties.

The State Health Department (the Department) does not yet have confirmatory results from those specimens. We also are waiting for validation of the accuracy of the testing performed by the Department's Wadsworth Laboratories. Once our testing is validated, New York no longer will need to send specimens to CDC for confirmatory testing, and confirmatory testing for H1N1 will be performed in Wadsworth Laboratories.

Yesterday 23 suspect H1N1 specimens were tested at our Wadsworth Laboratories. Of those, five specimens tested probable for cases of H1N1, with one case each in Suffolk, Nassau, Orange, Monroe, and Chautauqua counties.

These five cases bring the total number of probable cases in New York State outside of New York City to eight.

Of the five new probable cases, the ones in Suffolk and Nassau counties have links to St. Francis Prep School in Queens. The other three cases from Orange, Monroe, and Chautauqua counties have links to Mexico.

Also among these 23 specimens tested yesterday, three were positive for seasonal influenza, two were inconclusive and will be repeated, and 13 were negative for any type of influenza.

Today, New York City reported an additional 16 probable cases. The number of confirmed cases in New York City remains at 49.

These results indicate that seasonal influenza is still circulating in the state. But more than half the suspect specimens submitted for testing were negative for any type of influenza.

Local health departments continue to investigate many suspect cases of H1N1. In fact, outside of New York City, there currently are 89 suspect cases of H1N1 in New York State. As this outbreak continues to evolve, increases in the numbers and location of cases of H1N1 are to be expected.

Not all suspect cases will be sent to the Wadsworth Laboratories for testing. As the outbreak evolves and reports of suspect cases continue, the criteria for testing will change. For example, if H1N1 is identified in a particular county, then no longer will specimens be tested on mildly ill patients in that county.

There are three definitions of cases:

Confirmed cases
Laboratory testing has determined that these are cases due to H1N1.
Probable cases
Lab testing has determined that these are cases likely due to H1N1, but they need confirmatory testing.
Suspect cases
These cases have not been tested but are suspicious for H1N1. Many suspect cases are never tested because it is not necessary for managing mild illness.

The Fabius-Pompey School District in Onondaga County has been closed for the remainder of this week as a result of a student from Cortland County testing positive for H1N1. The district expects to reopen on Monday.

To address the evolving situation with schools, the Department is working with the State Education Department to finalize criteria in the next day or two for school districts to use to evaluate the need for closures.

Yesterday, a health care worker at a nursing home in Orange County was confirmed to have H1N1. That facility is providing anti-viral prophylaxis treatment to all patients and staff and conducting surveillance for additional illness. One ill patient is currently being tested.

The Department continues to work closely and coordinate with CDC and city and county health departments to address the possible spread of H1N1 in New York State. Because of effective planning, the Department has been able to move swiftly to respond to this situation.

All influenza can be serious — and deaths can be expected. Each year on average there are 36,000 seasonal influenza-related deaths in the U.S. – including approximately 2,000 deaths in New York State.

Symptoms of swine flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting have been reported as symptoms, as well.

Anyone experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek immediate medical attention. For anyone experiencing mild or moderate symptoms, it is best to consult with a health care provider and recover at home.

The best protection against any influenza is to follow common-sense precautions such as frequent hand-washing, staying home from work or school if you are ill, and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

For questions about swine flu, call the Department's hotline at 1-800-808-1987. New York City residents should call 311. Resources are available at www.nyhealth.gov/swineflu.