Gainesville Daily Register

News

November 23, 2009

Scientists announce H1N1 mutation

Just when you thought you’d heard enough about H1N1, comes the unwelcome news that the virus is changing.

Norwegian health authorities said Friday they have discovered a potentially significant mutation in the H1N1 influenza strain.

The change may allow the virus to penetrate deeper into the respiratory tracts of certain individuals causing more severe symptons and in some cases, death, an official with the World Health Organization (WHO) said recently.

H1N1 is responsible for at least 6,770 worldwide deaths since the virus emerged in April, according to the latest WHO update which showed 520 known fatalities in the past week.

News of the mutation is the latest in a seemingly relentless barrage of media coverage about the virus.

But Local emergency management officials say a worldwide flu outbreak such as the current H1N1 strain is significant even though the disease in question seems relatively mild.

Agencies such as the Cooke County Emergency Management office have taken H1N1 seriously since Day 1.

“We do a weekly conference call with the state that includes the state Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Education Agency and the Higher Education Coordinating Board,” Cooke County Emergency Management coordinator Ray Fletcher said in an October interview.

These calls let local officials and others know about any new procedures or processes related to H1N1 — a flu virus that emerged late last winter.

Fletcher also said he contacts schools, the local health officer and others associated with public health issues.

In addition, Cooke County emergency responders are prepared for the possibility of a pandemic flu outbreak.

Three years ago, the county tested its emergency preparedness with a pandemic flu exercise at the Cooke County Sheriff’s office.

More than 40 county officials, health care providers — both public and private — and representatives from agencies such as police, fire and emergency medical services got together Thursday for a tabletop exercise at Cooke County Sheriff’s Office to try to discuss and coordinate an emergency plan for the county.

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