Parents of local students continue to express concern regarding rumors of H1N1outbreaks —more commonly known as “swine flu”— within area schools.
Jane Simmons, nurse for the Johnsonville school district, said that confirmations of local H1N1 cases have come from area physicians and not South Carolina’s Department of Heath and Environmental Control (DHEC). She said that some students are believed to have that strain of flu but other strains of the virus have also been reported among students and teachers.
Dr. Danny Decamps, a physician with Pee Dee Family Practice in Johnsonville, said that concerns raised over recent cases of swine flu have stemmed from the disease being deemed a “pandemic.” Decamps said this means cases have been reported worldwide and in no way indicates the severity of the illnesses reported.
Simmons said the district is averaging absences of about 15 students a day who parents report suffer from “flu like symptoms.” These reports are part of a common district procedure of gathering absence information and tracking illnesses throughout the schools. She said if an unusually high number of students were reported absent with similar symptoms, DHEC would be notified and further measures taken to identify the symptom’s causes.
According to Simmons, current absence numbers are not near levels necessary for notifying DHEC.
Similar concerns were raised recently at Hemingway Elementary, where several students were rumored to have contracted H1N1. School officials there said at the time that while they were aware of at least two students absent with flu like symptoms, DHEC had not confirmed those cases were H1N1.
Swine flu concerns came to a head in Johnsonville last week with the reported absence of middle school principal Randy Willis. Willis missed the beginning part of last week with what was rumored to be swine flu. He said tests from his physician did not confirm that he had the H1N1 strain.
“They never said I had H1N1,” he said. “What they said was I tested positive for type A and that swine flu falls under that.”
Willis’ daughter was also rumored to have the virus but the principal said she was never tested and that her fever lasted less than a day. Willis was told by his doctor not to return to work until he had gone 24-hours fever free without taking fever-reducing medications. His fever subsided and he returned to school three days after being tested.
Officials at both Johnsonville High and Middle said students have been absent with flu-like symptoms, but that cases of strep throat are also being reported.
“We’ve had a good many students (absent),” Willis said. “But it has been from a number of things. It’s just hitting a little early this year.”
Decamps pointed out that influenza is one of the leading causes of death in the United States every year. With cases being reported earlier than usual, concerns are mounting that the number of flu related deaths would be on the rise.
“I’ve don’t ever remember seeing flu in September,” Decamps said. “It is normally a January and February occurrence.”
The doctor said that there has been a number of H1N1 cases reported locally and that people between the ages of 5 and 25 are at the most risk of contracting the disease. Both he and Simmons said washing hands and making sure to cover ones mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing are the best ways of preventing the spread of the flu.
“I just had a patient ask me the other day ‘How do you not get the flu?” Decamps said. “And I honestly believe because every time I go into a room (at the office) I wash my hands. I wash my hands a hundred times a day and that keeps me from getting (the flu) and spreading it to other people.”http://www2.scnow.com/scp/news/local/ar ... nts/77400/