May 12, 2009

Wisconsin's H1N1 surge a testing anomaly, health official says

The surge in Wisconsin's H1N1 cases in recent days is likely due to advanced testing methods in the state, according to a Racine health official.

There are 496 confirmed cases of the flu in Wisconsin, which amounts to 16 percent of the 3,009 confirmed cases across the country. Racine County has three confirmed cases of H1N1, all in the western part of the county.

But Michele Breheim, epidemiologist for the Racine Health Department, said Wisconsin's inflated numbers are likely because the state has three labs approved to test suspected cases of H1N1. Other states send their samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Breheim said while addressing Racine's Board of Health Wednesday.

The result is Wisconsin is confirming its cases faster than other states - and making up a majority of the cases nationally, she said.

While that explains Wisconsin's increase - based mostly in Milwaukee - it also suggests an increase in national cases is likely as more tests are completed.

"They won't be able to test everyone," Breheim said. "Eventually, they'll need to (conduct) surveillance and monitor people's symptoms."

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