Calling the vaccine the best weapon against influenza, Thomas Frieden , director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated at a news conference Tuesday, Oct. 6 that “influenza is widespread in the United States” and “remains [an] overwhelming, unpredictable tough enemy.”
Stressing “it will be awhile before vaccine is widely available,” Frieden asked for everyone to do “three simple things” to protect against the flu. These include: Stay home if you are sick; cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze; and wash your hands often.
Though West Virginia has been listed as a “regional” outbreak, the flu has expanded its grip on the state. Its neighbors --- Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland --- all report widespread flu.
Cabell County Schools continue in session despite high absenteeism. Following the death of 14-year-old Cabell Midland freshman Patrick Wheeler on Saturday, Oct. 3, attendance at Midland has continued to decrease with 400 absent Monday, Oct. 5, and about 753 absent, Tuesday, Oct 6. Midland has an enrollment of about 1,800.
At the same time, an anonymous source told HNN that a grade school student from the Huntington area has been hospitalized due to flu.
Jackson County has also reported large numbers of students absent. Ripley High School has 238 children at home; Ripley Middle School reported 200 absent and the elementary had more than one hundred students not in class Tuesday.
Unknown are the actual number of students suffering from illness and the number kept home by fearful parents. Some at Cabell Midland not only want the school closed, but want a weekend dance postponed. However, the Cabell County School Board continues working in conjunction with the Cabell County Health Department in keeping school doors open to well students and teachers.
Reacting to parental discontent about the policy, Cabell County Health Department director, Dr. Harry Tweel, said flu cases this year are no higher than last year. Further, keeping children home will not stop the virus’ spread.
“It’s there, it’s around. They certainly can get it at the mall, the movies, the ballgame, a friend’s house,” Tweel said.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha – Charleston Health Department, stressed the importance of vaccination of children during a news conference. He explained that children are involved in more hand-to-mouth activities and interact in closer quarters than adults.
Actually, some after school activities in Cabell County on Monday night, Oct. 5, had diminished attendance. For instance, YMCA youth soccer teams had significant absenteeism due to the flu.
Dr. Cathy Slemp, a spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Health, told reporters that her children “will be vaccinated” when its available to the state. She also cautioned that in spite of the heightened awareness since the death of Patrick Wheeler, the H1N1 virus becoming more severe.
The state health officer told reporters she sent her kids to Cabell County schools today.
"I can share with you that my kids are in school in Cabell County today, and I'd expect they will be tomorrow, as well, because I know that the local health department and the school is working closely together to monitor situations to take the right measure to prevent disease and follow through with what needs to happen to keep our kids safe," she said.
H1N1 VACCINE ARRIVES FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS
The state has received about 11,000 doses of vaccine for healthcare workers. Slemp indicated the order was placed last week. These first vaccines (of the spray variety) have arrived and are being given to healthcare workers. A shipment will arrive in November for the public.
WE DO NOT WANT SICK CHILDREN AT SCHOOL
Jedd Flowers, director of communications for Cabell County Schools also emphasized, “We do not want sick children in school.”
However, the school system has issued guidelines that children with legitimate flu or flu-like symptoms will be excused. “If students are kept home without evidence of symptoms of illness, their absences cannot be excused,” the Cabell School website stated.
Flowers speculated that some of those not in attendance at Cabell school Monday were from parental concerns rather than flu symptoms.
RIPLEY HIGH HARD HIT
With five of Ripley High School’s cheerleader’s in his office, pediatrician Dr. Joe Matusic told a Charleston television station that sick people should not run to the emergency room. They will infect more people. He recommended that they call their personal physician for instructions.
Dr. Matusic also cautioned that there is a limited supply of flu medicine available. One website reported that a course of Tami flu costs nearly $200 per person.
Cabell Count Schools has posted questions and answers for parents on the virus at the school website. And, the answer to closing schools remains no:
“One case or even a handful of cases of Swine Flu should not cause alarm because anyone who has been identified as having, or possibly having, swine flu will not be in the building. We’re insisting that parents keep any student home who has flu-like symptoms, including a temperature above 100 degrees,” the website states.
However, the Cabell County Health Department along with the school system will be monitoring absences on a daily basis. Under one CDC approved scenario, local leaders may elect to shut schools with a high concentration of the virus.
Meanwhile, if you live in Mason County and want the season vaccine, you are too late. The county has reported running out of the vaccine. More will be available later, however. http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/091 ... dance.html