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Flu-Like Illness Being Reported in Communities District-Wide

Posted Aug 19 2009 6:21pm
District 4 Public Health wants parents and employers to know that flu-like illness is being reported in communities within the 12 county Region. Because only a small portion of persons with respiratory illness are tested for novel H1N1, confirmed and probable case counts represent a significant underestimation of the true number of novel H1N1 flu cases. Because of the low testing rate, we should not use these as indicators of the presence of H1N1 in our community.

We should be proactive and conduct ourselves as if this virus is already in our communities. Therefore, it is important for everyone to take steps to prevent contracting the flu and follow recommendations to prevent the further spread of illness.

Currently, the CDC is recommending that anyone with a flu-like illness stay at home for 24 hours after the last sign that fever is subsiding without the use of fever-reducing medicine. However, any ill persons who work in a health care setting are being asked to isolate themselves for up to seven days until feeling better.

“Public Health has been working closely with school systems and many other partners, some of these partners are also reporting incidents of flu-like illness,” said Michael Brackett, M.D., director of District 4 Health Services. “Novel H1N1 is confirmed in some parts of our District, so we are not surprised to see clusters popping up as schools reopen. This was predicted.”

The symptoms of novel H1N1 are similar to regular seasonal flu and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some infected people have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people who get it recover at home in approximately a week, the same as with seasonal flu.

“There is no vaccine available yet to protect people from catching novel H1N1. Until a vaccine has been developed and proven safe, our best course of action is to take steps to prevent the spread of illness in our schools – not just novel H1N1 but any kind of virus,” said Brackett.
“Some of the medical recommendations will change as we learn more about this virus. These are everyday actions you and your children can take to stay healthy.”

• Do not send your child to school with a fever. Keep childrenwith flu-like illness at home so they don’t infect others.• Sick children should not return to school or participate in any activities putting them in contact with others until their fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

• Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze (using your sleeve is good). If you use a tissue to cover coughs or sneezes, throw it in the trash after you use it. Teach your children to do the same.

• Avoid giving children aspirin and products that contain aspirin. Aspirin use with a virus has been associated with a rare medical problem called Reyes Syndrome.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze and before you eat. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective if regular soap and water is not available. Be a good role model for your children.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• Have your family – including your children – vaccinated against regular seasonal flu.

People who develop severe illness should contact their local healthcare provider immediately. Most cases of novel H1N1 illness have been consistent with regular flu and should be treated similar to regular flu. People who have underlying at-risk medical conditions who develop flu-like symptoms or who think they were exposed but don’t have any symptoms should seek medical advice.

From what we know now, Public Health is NOT recommending schools close when novel H1N1 infections occur in students and/or faculty. However, we are working closely with Local, State and Federal Health experts and other partners to monitor the situation. Recommendations will change as the disease spreads and as we learn more about it or if the virus changes in severity.
For more information about novel H1N1, contact your local county health department or go online, www.cdc.gov or www.flu.gov.
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