Athens-area swine flu case reported

The Northeast Health District has confirmed a case of H1N1 influenza, commonly called swine flu, in the Athens area.


The Georgia Public Health Laboratory reported late Thursday afternoon that a 15-year-old girl tested positive for the flu in Oconee County.

She visited a doctor in Oconee County on June 23 and already is recovering from her symptoms, according to a news release from the health district.

Health district officials reported that the girl lived in Barrow County, but friends of the family said she lives in Oconee County.

Health district officials were not available Thursday afternoon to clarify where the family lives or to offer any information about where the girl may have contracted the virus.

This is the first case confirmed in the 10-county Northeast Health District, which covers Clarke, Barrow, Oconee, Jackson, Greene, Elbert, Madison, Morgan, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.

Medical providers in Georgia have treated more than 100 cases of the H1N1 virus since the first case was diagnosed in late April, but none have been fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 77,000 cases of swine flu have been confirmed, according to the World Health Organization, which last month officially declared the virus a pandemic. Almost 34,000 cases have been diagnosed in the United States.

While H1N1 is widespread, it has, so far, been much less deadly than the seasonal flu that hits the United States each fall and winter, according to health district officials.

More than 300 people worldwide have died from H1N1, but most victims recover without ever knowing they had swine flu, health district officials said in the news release.

The word pandemic refers to how widespread a disease is, not how deadly it is, said Corrie Brown, a University of Georgia veterinary pathologist who studies infectious diseases.

"In terms of the virulence of the virus - in terms of how bad it is - it's pretty wimpy as far as pandemics are concerned," Brown said. "That doesn't mean that it won't pick up some speed or some nastiness over time, but right now it doesn't seem like it's that bad."

National public health officials estimate that as many as 500,000 people in New York City may have contracted the disease during May, but the vast number of those people fought off the illness without medical treatment, Anne Schuchat, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a CDC news conference last week.

"There have probably been tons of cases in this area that haven't been reported (because they haven't required medical treatment)," said Steve Valeika, an epidemiologist at the UGA College of Public Health.

As far as strategies for staying healthy this holiday weekend, both Valeika and Brown reminded people to wash their hands to prevent the spread of the virus, which is transmitted through large mucus droplets and not through the air.



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