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No deaths as spread of disease slows

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Sept. 18, 2009) – The Northern Mariana Islands has 65 new swine flu cases

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) now has a total of 71 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza after the Department of Public Health received Tuesday the latest results of samples sent to San Antonio, Texas.

Commonwealth Health Center Medical Director Dr. Richard Brostrom and acting Deputy Secretary for Public Health Administration John Tagabuel disclosed yesterday that the confirmed cases include 65 new cases and the initial six that were counted in July.

DPH officials earlier said it sent over a hundred samples to Texas for testing. Of that number, 91 samples came back this week.

The 65 new confirmed cases translate to 71 percent of the total number of samples sent off island for testing, Brostrom said.

However, he emphasized that no one has been hospitalized or in the hospital at present for H1N1 influenza.

These patients, he said, were admitted sometime in July and August and were all released after being cleared of the flu.

Because the results were delayed, Brostrom and Tagabuel said they are giving physicians the authority to release the results to individual patients.

They said the CNMI has had no H1N1-related death so far and noted fewer cases of suspected infections compared to previous months.

Despite the noticeable decrease in emergency activities, Brostrom said the hospital is not letting its guard down, knowing the H1N1 virus is still circulating in the community.

There is still no information on the amount of H1N1 vaccines the CNMI expects to receive in November.

The two health officials reiterated that the first batch of vaccines will be distributed to those on the priority list, like pregnant women and infants.

As for the seasonal vaccines, Brostrom said they expect the vaccines to arrive this month.

DPH program analyst Roxanne Diaz reiterated the need to take basic precautionary measures to avert the spread of the virus.

Although the H1N1 flu is a new virus, DPH officials said it seems to be mild for most people but some individuals are more likely to get sick than others.

Recent information indicates that pregnant women are at higher risk than others for the flu.

"Sometimes, the flu can be very severe in pregnancy. While catching the flu during pregnancy rarely causes birth defects, pregnancy can increase the risk for flu complications such as pneumonia," DPH said, adding that the best way to have a healthy pregnancy is to avoid the flu altogether.

Brostrom advised schoolchildren to stay home if they have flu to avoid spreading the virus.

Since the opening of classes last week and after the recent two-day typhoon, CHC has yet to receive related cases or potential H1N1 cases among students, he said.

Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan earlier formed a task force to focus on preventing the virus' spread and impact. Channels for information dissemination as well as hotline numbers and health pamphlets were distributed to every school.

Public health officials also confirmed that the hospital recorded no injuries during the typhoon.

Although they set aside an area for possible early labor and delivery among pregnant women, Brostrom said only a few were admitted during the typhoon.

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