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Neighboring Guam has total of 61 cases

By Andrew O. De Guzman & Tiffany Sukola

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Aug. 5, 2009) - The Department of Public Health yesterday confirmed four more persons were infected with H1N1 bringing to six the total swine flu cases in the CNMI while Guam’s reached 61 over the weekend.

Health authorities’ suspect there could be more than a 100 people actually infected in the CNMI and Guam but pending laboratory confirmation official figures remain at 6 and 61 swine flu cases, respectively for the islands.

With H1N1 cases rapidly rising in Guam, the territory which has about over 178,000 people, will host on August 13 and 14 the Guam H1N1 Preparedness Summit at the Marriot Hotel.

Dr. Richard Brostrom, the CNMI Public Health Director, said the public should seriously take health advisories to protect themselves from the virus that had so far affected about 5,000 people in the nearby Japan as of last month.

Japan is the single biggest tourism market of both Guam and the CNMI, accounting for over 70 percent of the estimated 1.4 million tourists visiting the islands every year.

"More than a hundred suspected H1N1cases are in community and the public should take seriously health advisories, like from PSS and DPH," explains Public Health medical director Dr. Richard Brostrom in a news conference yesterday afternoon.

The doctor said the four new confirmed swine flu cases were from the pool of 20 persons whose samples were tested in a laboratory in San Antonio, Texas.

But despite the increase on H1N1 cases in the commonwealth, Brostrom said there’s no need to panic.

"There’s no need for public to panic. Community preparedness is the best response," he said.

Nasal swabbing is done two times on a person suspected to be infected with H1N1. The samples taken are then processed for laboratory work.

Three of the four new H1N1 cases are residents and the last one involves a contract worker who is still here.

All four were told to stay at home until they recuperate.

Out of the 20, 14 were negative for influenza, while two tested positive of Type A influenza (H3), but not swine flu, Brostrom said.

No other specific details about the new cases were available.

"Clinics are quite busy and reporting that most cases are mild to moderate illness. No hospitalizations presently. No deaths in the CNMI," Brostrom said.

In Guam, 28 new swine flu cases were identified last week bringing the total number to 61 and one death.

All new cases had successfully recovered from the viral infection.

Health authorities in Guam already asked medical providers to prioritize swine flu testing of patients.

Apparently, labs in Hawaii and California that normally receive Guam’s samples are currently experiencing a backlog and cannot accommodate anymore large volume of samples.

The government of Guam has committed US$1.2 million to cover the cost of getting DPHSS lab certified by the Centers for Disease Control.

According to DPHSS spokeswoman Marylou Loualhati, preparations began after states and territories were encouraged at the national swine flu summit last month in Maryland to hold their own local flu summits.

Since then DPHSS has partnered with the Office of the Governor, Guam Office of Homeland Security and the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association to identify areas where information is most needed.

The island wide flu summit centers on the idea that preventing the spread of the swine flu virus is a shared responsibility among the people of Guam.

Loualhati said presentations at the summit will focus on ways to mitigate the spread of the flu virus, and to advise educational institutions how they can prepare for the upcoming school year and how employers can protect their employees from the contracting the virus.

Approximately 400 individuals from government agencies, private businesses and the community at large are expected to attend the summit.

DPHSS officials remind residents to remain vigilant against the flu.

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