Twenty two cases of influenza have now been reported among students in the school system as of Tuesday and most, if not all, are believed to be H1N1.
Last Thursday, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby told WJLE there were three cases of flu, but added that none were believed to be H1N1 because "We have not received any confirmed cases from the Center for Disease Control."
However, during a meeting with the local media Monday, Willoughby said based on information from local physicians and health care professionals, he now believes the cases are H1N1, even though there has still been no official confirmation from the CDC. "The state of Tennessee is telling the doctors not to send any more specimens to be tested because the majority and close to 100% are coming back as H1N1 now. Last week we had three (cases) we thought had not been confirmed. This week we feel we probably have seventeen (cases of H1N1)."
Most of students with the flu are from the high school and middle school.
Willoughby says the number of cases may grow over the next few weeks but the problem has not reached epidemic proportions yet and there are currently no plans to close schools. "If this were January or February and we had seventeen cases of the flu, we'd be thinking we were doing pretty good but this is August. I do think there will be more cases. We've just started back to school. The kids are confined to the classrooms and whatever they have, children spread. I think we'll see more of this in the next four or five weeks. Hopefully after the next four or five weeks, it's going to go away or at least I hope it's going to go away. But we're going to be taking the precautions we need to in the schools. Custodians are disinfecting the door knobs, desks, and things like that. We're keeping all the soap dispensers filled up. That's some of the things we're doing. Right now there's no thought about closing schools but should this intensify, that will be one of the options we'll have. We'll just wait and see how this goes. We're not used to seeing people with the flu in August and we have that right now. The ages we're seeing it mostly is in the middle school and high school.
Deanna Pursinger, School Health Coordinator, has some advice for parents. "Just to let parents know of things they need to look for, the symptoms are real similar to the seasonal flu. The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting."
"The H1N1 is not any worse than the normal flu." We had a child who was sick on Friday. The mother took that child to the doctor, got the anti virals, by Sunday that child was fever free, and that child is back in school today (Monday). Did not even miss a day of school. It's not that bad, especially if you look for the signs and symptoms and get that child to the doctor."
"CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after you have been fever free without any medication."
"In seasonal flu, certain people are at "high risk" of serious complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease."
"Some universal precautions that people can take to prevent this are good common sense hygiene things such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If children come to the school nurse or clinic and they have the flu like symptoms, the first thing we'll do is take those kids out of the classroom, isolate them, call the parents, send them home and ask them to see the doctor to be checked to see if they do have the flu."
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