While it appears there are more cases of H1N1 flu cropping up, the actual confirmed numbers may be much lower. Deb Scholten, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says not all flu cases are being tested in a laboratory setting.
Scholten says, “If a doctor gives you a rapid test and it’s positive, very likely it’s H1N1, but we cannot ever call it ‘confirmed’ unless it has gone through all the steps it needs to go through at these confirmatory labs, such as your state public health labs.”
She says it’s important to clarify the difference between suspected and confirmed cases of H1N1. “Sometimes, the media doesn’t understand that and they’ll come with headlines that say we’ve got so many confirmed cases in such-and-such a school,” she says. While it’s likely those are actually H1N1 cases, she says they aren’t confirmed as they haven’t gone through the proper channels.
Because H1N1 is the only flu strain circulating now, they can assume a positive test at the doctor’s office is H1N1. Scholten says there are certain cases that will get full testing. She says anyone whose flu-like conditions are severe enough to be sent to a hospital overnight will have specimins sent to the confirmatory laboratories.
The peak of the regular flu season doesn’t usually hit until January or February.
Thanks to Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton