by: Kristen Guilfoos
There are now seven suspected H1N1 flu cases in the Amarillo area. Two of the potential victims are adults. The other five are under age 18 and attend school in Potter and Randall counties. The names of the schools where these children attend are not being released as of Wednesday night.
It's important to note that these are not confirmed cases. They are Suspected cases, which means they tested positive for Influenza A. Their results will then be sent for further testing at the state level, when the cases becomes Probable. If necessary, it then goes to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta where an official diagnosis can take place and the case becomes Confirmed.
The first US H1N1 flu death happened on Texas soil, a 22-month old boy died in Houston. As of 9:15 on Thursday night, there are 26 confirmed H1N1 cases in Texas. Governor Rick Perry issued "a disaster proclamation today that covers the entire state" on Wednesday morning.
But even that's not enough to convince some local residents that H1N1 flu really is as bad as people say it is. "I think it's being blown out of proportion... I think the media is blowing it up a little bit... I think it's sort of like the whole sky is falling, chicken little thing a disaster? That's a little bit much."
Local health officials understand the skepticism... Compare H1N1 flu to regular flu and you'll see that regular flu kills about 36,000 people a year on average. H1N1 flu has killed just over 150. But there's one major difference, says Amarillo Health Authority Dr. Todd Bell. "No one is immune from this. In the past some people might have had partial immunity because the strand might have been similar to the flu from last season."
Another difference; the speed at which H1N1 flu is spreading. Take Texas for example. We jumped from six cases to sixteen cases overnight...and those numbers are growing by the day.
It will take several days before we know if the suspect cases in our area can be added to that list. The swabs have been sent for further tests at the state level and those results should be back Friday at the earliest, but most likely early next week.
We will bring you those results as soon as we get them. Until those cases are confirmed, no extra steps will be taken. If, and only if, they are confirmed, officials will then decide if they should close the schools.