Health officials hopeful, but say we aren't out of the woods yet

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - New name, same fears. Health officials are now referring to the H1N1 virus, as the 2009 H1N1 virus. But there is some hopeful news. National and world health officials say the new virus may not be as deadly as first feared.

But as they continue to target the H1N1 virus local health officials say we're clearly not out of the woods yet, and the piney woods are not exempt. Here in East Texas, schools have closed and highly probable cases are being investigated.

"We won't ever have a number on how many cases we prevented," said Shawn Clifford, the nurse epidemiologist with the Northeast Texas Public Health district. "Those are just public success stories when people don't get sick."

The Public Health Lab of East Texas has been working round the clock, testing and retesting lab results from East Texas flu patients. There have been 286 confirmed cases in the U.S. and only one death. More than 150 lab specimens have been tested at the Public Health Lab. One highly probable case in Van Zandt County was sent to the CDC in Atlanta.

"The transmission has been happening easily, but we have not been having a large percentage of people who are extremely ill," said Clifford.

She says there's no need to panic, but there's no room for complacency, either.

"We may be in a place where Mexico was three of four months ago," said Dr. Amir Shams.

So we have to be very vigilant.

Shams said the H1N1 spread could come later and said there's fear in the unknown.

"20 to 50 million people died in 1918 pandemic, and no one want to take any risk," said Shams.

That's why he and researchers across the country are working to dissect this new strain. The unknowns mean we can't take our guards down, now.

"We call it overreaction, [but it] may not be really, overreaction," said Shams. "That might be the right thing we're doing. Time will show it."

We're told the results from the highly probable Van Zandt County case will not be in for a few days. However, the patient is recovering well.

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