A youth under 18 years old in Penobscot County is the latest Mainer to be sickened by the 2009 H1N1 swine flu, and state officials said Thursday the number of cases now stands at five.
In addition to the Penobscot County youngster, there are two youths and one adult in York County who are ill with the virus, and one adult in Kennebec County, Maine’s top public health officer said Thursday.
On Wednesday, the state reported that three adults were ill with the H1N1 virus — two in Kennebec County and one in York County. According to Dr. Dora Anne Mills of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the updated numbers provided Thursday do not align with those initial reports due to the emerging nature of the epidemic and the need for state laboratory tests to be confirmed at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The second person in Kennebec County initially tested positive for H1N1 on Wednesday. A follow-up test revealed that the person does not have the H1N1 flu, but instead seasonal flu, Mills said.
Mills said at a press briefing Thursday that all affected individuals in Maine have mild illness and are recovering at their homes. The state does not disclose identifying information about people affected by reportable diseases.
The school attended by the youth in Penobscot County will not be closed, because the youngster has not been at school for nearly two weeks and is unlikely to have contaminated the facility or spread the illness to others, Mills said. A school and a day care center in York County were closed Wednesday because of the cases there.
All current cases have been confirmed by testing at the public health laboratory in Augusta, Mills said. But until the specimens have been retested by the federal CDC, they only can be termed “probable” or “highly suspicious.” That process can take several days, she said.
Mills said the state lab tested about 12 specimens for H1N1 influenza Monday, about three dozen Tuesday, and more than 100 Wednesday.
“It’s way more than that now,” she said Thursday.
Mills said she is very confident in the accuracy of the state laboratory test results.
The great majority of positive tests from all state labs are being corroborated by the CDC, she said.
But because of the high volume of tests in Maine and the effort to stem the rapid spread of the virus, case numbers at any one moment can be in flux.
Because many families traveled during the recent spring school vacation to areas where flu cases are numerous, Mills said she expects to see an increase in the number of cases identified in Maine. Although most cases in the United States have been mild, she said, the federal CDC continues to warn public health officials that the severity of the illness may increase over time.
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