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

May 1, 2009

Since Governor Paterson put the state on high alert, State and local health officials and emergency preparedness workers have been working around the clock to respond to this H1N1 outbreak. Their efforts have enabled New York to respond swiftly to stay one step ahead of this situation.

As the H1N1 outbreak continues to evolve, it's not surprising to see this virus show up in new counties where it hasn't been detected before.

Last night, the State Department of Health's Wadsworth Laboratories tested 49 specimens, including two repeat tests from Wednesday, from 49 individuals with suspected H1N1.

Specimens from four patients were probable for H1N1 – one each in Lewis, Nassau, Orange, and Westchester counties.

All four cases are linked to recent travel to Mexico or contact with persons who had recent travel to Mexico.

This brings the total number of probable cases in New York State outside of New York City to 13. Of those, 12 were tested at our Wadsworth Laboratories. One case from Nassau County was tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The individuals affected are recovering and their symptoms have been mild to moderate.

In addition, 15 specimens we tested were positive for ordinary seasonal flu and 30 were negative for any type of influenza.

As of last night, there are 82 confirmed or probable cases in Queens.

There also are:

  • 3 cases in Nassau County;
  • 2 cases in Suffolk County;
  • 1 case in Westchester County;
  • 3 cases in Orange County;
  • 1 case in Cortland County;
  • 1 case in Chautauqua County;
  • 1 case in Monroe County; and
  • 1 case in Lewis County.

These results show that even the smallest and most naturally socially distanced counties, such as Lewis County, will have cases of H1N1.

To date, a total of 96 specimens from counties outside of New York City have been tested. Of those:

  • 60 tested negative for H1N1;
  • 24 were positive for seasonal flu; and
  • 12 were probable for H1N1.

Validation by CDC of the accuracy of the specimen testing performed by our Wadsworth Laboratories is still pending.

Once the accuracy is validated, New York no longer will need to send specimens to CDC for confirmatory testing, as confirmatory testing for H1N1 will be performed in our Wadsworth Laboratories.

As of today, the Fabius-Pompey School District and the Bemus Point Central School are closed.

This morning, CDC updated guidelines for dismissal of K-12 students and closure of child care facilities when there is a laboratory confirmed case of H1N1.

The guidelines expand the minimum duration of closing to 14 days – to allow the virus complete its course before students return to school.

Pre-emptive closing of all schools in the district as well as neighboring districts could be considered.

When students are dismissed, all related gatherings also should be cancelled, and parents and students should avoid congregating in large numbers outside of school settings.

These decisions should be made locally by schools in consultation with local health officials.

The Department briefed more than 500 long-term care providers across the State. We provided updates to city and county public health directors.

Letters are being sent to pharmacists and physicians throughout the State advising them of updated guidelines for the use of antiviral mediations such as Tamiflu. These letters will also ask their assistance to help patients understand how they can stay healthy during this outbreak and when to call the doctor – as well as with rendering care and treatment consistent with Department guidance.

The Department is supplying laboratory specimen collection kits to 57 counties outside of New York City to help support local specimen collection needs during this outbreak.

The viral respiratory specimen collection kit includes the recommended swabs needed to secure the specimen and the tools necessary to stabilize the sample during shipping.

Coordinated statewide efforts to track this virus are enabled by our real-time, electronic reporting system. The Department has trained all counties outside of New York City on this reporting system.

All influenza can be serious. 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.

The symptoms of H1N1 may include fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting have been reported as symptoms, as well.

New Yorkers experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek immediate medical attention. For those experiencing mild or moderate symptoms, it is best to consult with your 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 H1N1, call the Department's hotline at 1-800-808-1987. New York City residents should call 311.