H1N1, Federal Officials Now "guardedly optimistic"

By Betsy Thorpe

On Monday May 4th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the first case of the H1N1 virus identified in Tennessee has been confirmed positive. The initial case, a student at Harding Academy in Belle Meade was identified by the health department in Williamson County on April 29. To date, nine cases of the new influenza have been identified in Tennessee, including the one confirmed case at Harding Academy and two probable cases at Montgomery Bell Academy. On Monday, MBA Headmaster Bradford Gioia stated that, “At this point, we have no confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza. There is, however, a probability that one or more of our students will receive a confirmation of this influenza within the next day or so.” Dr. Bill Paul, director of Metro’s Health Department is working with administrators from both schools to determine if there are additional cases of the virus. As part of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management the Health Department is working closely with the Mayor and other Metro agencies to communicate updated information and alerts to Nashville’s residents. Metro Councilman Jason Holleman said “Metro’s public health officials are to be commended for their handling of the H1N1 virus in Nashville. They have acted swiftly and decisively without causing unnecessary fear in the community.”

On May 3rd, federal officials said they were cautiously optimistic that the H1N1 virus is not as dangerous as first feared. “The good news is when we look at this virus right now, we’re not seeing some of the things in the virus that have been associated in the past with more severe flu,” said Dr. Richard Besser, director of the CDC. However he advises the public to follow common-sense precautions, such as frequent hand washing, and he urged the public to try to stay in good general health by getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active, practicing stress management, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious food. Dr, Bessar also said it is important to “listen to your local health authorities”.

H1N1 is a new influenza virus that was was first detected in the United States in April. The H1N1 virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus are similar to the influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. Recent studies revealed that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs and there is no evidence that swine in the United States are infected with this disease. The symptoms of this H1N1 is similar to the symptoms of regular flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

At a meeting with the Bellevue Exchange Club on May 5th, Dr.Bill Paul said that the confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus are milder than expected and that the city’s heightened response to the few cases identified in Nashville are due the fact that this is a new virus and that a preventive vaccine is still in development.

Residents with questions related to the H1N1 Virus in Nashville should call the Metro Public Health Department community hotline at 615-340-7775. The hotline also provides up-to-date influenza information.

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