Nearly all of the samples tested at the Georgia Division of Public Health are not suspected of being the novel influenza A H1N1 virus, formerly called swine flu, said Acting Director Sandra Elizabeth Ford. Meanwhile, South Carolina is investigating more suspected cases of the new virus.
Of the 70 samples sent to the Georgia state lab so far, 50 are not suspected of being the new virus and were therefore not sent on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Ford said. There are 19 samples still pending. The state has only sent one suspicious sample so far to the CDC and that was later confirmed to be novel H1N1. That was from a 30-year-old Kentucky woman who came to Georgia for a wedding.
She is still hospitalized in LaGrange "but appears to be improving," Dr. Ford said. None of her close contacts are showing any symptoms, she added.
That most of the samples appear not to be the new virus is a "positive sign," Dr. Ford said. The samples sent to the state lab, that might have tested positive for some form of flu but not the novel virus, might just be picking up the tail end of flu season in Georgia, she said.
"We're still winding up," Dr. Ford said. "Flu season is almost over. What we're seeing is the last little bit of that."
The public health lab is working around the clock to test sample, and is sorting through a large number of submissions to find those that meet the criteria for further testing, she said. The CDC is sending test kits to Georgia and South Carolina to do the confirmatory tests for the novel H1N1 virus, "which obviously will cut down on the time for us to be able to confirm whether or not they are positive for H1N1," Dr. Ford said.
After hearing concerns from the pork industry, federal officials are asking that it no longer be called swine flu, she said. It is misleading to call it swine flu because cases in the U.S. are not originating from pigs but from humans, she said.
"I also think it is just more appropriate because the illness is not just a swine virus," Dr. Ford said. "It is also a human virus as well as an avian virus. It's a combination of viruses."
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 13 confirmed and nine suspected cases of the new flu virus. Jerry Gibson, chief of the Bureau of Disease Control for the department, said the state is conducting 22 investigations throughout the state. All of the confirmed cases are from a school in Newberry, where people became ill after a trip to Mexico. All of those who are confirmed or probable cases of the new flu virus, in addition to those who were exposed, are being asked to voluntarily isolate themselves at home, Dr. Gibson said.
"These steps are asked not only to help exposed and infected citizens, but also to protect others from exposure and illness, and to prevent further spread," Dr. Gibson said. "Isolation and quarantine are used to protect your family, friends and others from the virus."
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