Health department confirms H1N1 cases in Leon County

The Leon County Health Department has confirmed that there are cases of H1N1 in Leon County.

“H1N1 is circulating in Leon County, which is not unexpected,” Page Jolly, a public information officer and contract manager, wrote in an email.

The H1N1 virus, which rampaged throughout the country in 2009, has re-emerged in numerous states this flu season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, H1N1, also known as swine flu, originated in pigs and eventually spread to humans, causing a global outbreak in 2009.

The CDC estimated that there were 43 million to 89 million cases of H1N1 between April 2009 and April 10, 2010, and there were between 8,870 and 18,300 deaths caused by the virus in that span.

Flu season runs from October to April. This flu season, 15 counties, including Brevard, Charlotte and Orange, have seen have seen moderate amounts of influenza activity, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Multiple attempts to gather statistics from Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare regarding the specific number of cases and possible deaths from H1N1 were denied on the grounds of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

H1N1 is not a recordable illness in the state of Florida, meaning cases of death specifically relating to H1N1 involving people 18 or older are not recorded or required to be reported to the FDH in Leon County.

More commonly, influenza-related deaths are lumped together with pneumonia-related deaths because pneumonia is commonly induced by the influenza. So far, the FDH reports an estimated 213 pneumonia and influenza deaths in Florida this flu season.

Pediatric mortality is reported, and so far, there has been one pediatric H1N1-related death in Florida, according to the health department.

Tanya Tatum, director of student health services at Florida A&M, said the virus doesn’t discriminate on who it infects. She said it will attack anyone, but the people who are most likely to contract it are those with underlying illnesses such as diabetes and asthma.

Tatum added that she doesn’t believe cases of H1N1 have increased recently because the virus is evolving. She said it is just that there is more overall flu activity this year compared to last year.

“It is the same strain,” Tatum said. “It’s just the most predominant strain we’re seeing now. But there are a number of different strains of the flu virus that are out. Sometimes there are good years, sometimes there are bad years.”

Tatum said Florida hasn’t seen nearly as many cases as probably most of the other states across the country.

Common symptoms include fatigue, headache, fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

According to Tatum, the best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated. However, she said she’s concerned with the low amount of students who receive shots at FAMU.

“I have a real problem on this campus really trying to get students to get their flu shots,” Tatum said. “We give them away free. We go different places so it’s convenient for students so they don’t have to walk into the clinic, and yet I still struggle to give away 300 doses of the flu vaccine.”

Frequently washing hands and avoiding contact with people who are sneezing and coughing are other ways to avoid the flu. Tatum also advises students to stay home if they feel they are sick so the virus doesn’t spread.

“We really strongly suggests that students get the flu [vaccine],” Tatum said. “I think one of the things that kind of works against us is a lot of people think the flu is just like the cold.

“If you get sick with the flu, you can be out of class from one to two weeks. And when you can take a shot that’s over and done in less than five minutes, it just makes sense to take the precautions so you can stay in school and do here what you came to do.”