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Home News-Telegram News Lone swine flu case causing panic; risk of contracting H1N1 virus ‘pretty slim,’ but concerned parents have been flooding doctor’s offices with calls

Lone swine flu case causing panic; risk of contracting H1N1 virus ‘pretty slim,’ but concerned parents have been flooding doctor’s offices with calls

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By now, most local residents know that a child in a Sulphur Springs school has tested positive as having the H1N1 virus. The child, 3 1/2, is a student at Early Childhood Learning Center and is the only the person in this area recently to have tested positive for the swine flu. One other person was confirmed to have the virus in the spring. But you'd never know it if you answered the phone for a local doctor.

The ECLC student was diagnosed quickly and is being treated for the virus. The child will not return to school until a doctor pronounces the student is healthy. The 3 1/2-year-old does have a sibling who attends Austin Elementary. Doctors checked the sibling and their mother, and neither had contracted the virus.

School officials immediately began wiping down surfaces at ECLC upon notification but have been taking precautions at all campus, sanitizing the schools regularly to cut down on the number of germs on the various campuses.

Thus, the risk of a Sulphur Springs student or even another local resident contracting the H1N1 virus are pretty slim, local health officials note. In fact, because cases in the state have been sporadic at best, the likelihood of an epidemic is slim to none, health officials note.

Local children are more likely to have a sinus infection or strep throat, which one local clinic has treated a number of children for in the past week, than swine flu or other types of influenza. Flu season typically comes during the cooler weather months of January and February.

However, following the announcement by school officials of one case of confirmed swine flu at ECLC, local doctors’ offices have been flooded with calls from parents concerned their child may have been exposed to swine flu.

Local pediatrician Sherri Barclay of Jordan’s Place Pediatrics said while normal daily precautions against germs and illnesses are healthy habits, the panic the announcement has caused is unwarranted but likely due to the lack of education of individuals as to the symptoms of swine flu and when to be concerned.

Barclay has a few recommendations that may help allay parents’ fears about the virus and when to become worried.

The first thing to keep in mind when a child or loved one becomes sick is to remain calm and assess the person’s symptoms.

She said that most often symptoms of regular flu or sinus allergies, especially lately, in the heart of ragweed season, have been mistaken by the general public as swine flu. While the two types of flu have several symptoms, there’s one big difference — gastrointestinal, or GI, problems

Sinus allergies typically are marked by a runny nose, hacking cough, sinus drainage, a headache and possibly even a low fever. Normal flu symptoms include a very high fever between 102-104 degrees, body aches, sore throat, chills, fatigue, coughs and upper respiratory congestion.

The H1N1 virus or swine flu also includes not only high fever, coughs, aches, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, sore throat, chills, fatigue and upper respiratory congestion, but also GI tract problems — that is, diarrhea and nausea.

Swine flu is diagnosed by first having a sample taken at the doctor’s office to be examined. If it tests positive for Type A flu then a sample is sent to the state lab to be further tested and confirmed, according to Barclay.

Unless experiencing GI problems, the sick person likely does not have swine flu, just regular influenza, which can still be pretty nasty all on its own. Those exhibiting all symptoms of swine flu should contact their health care provider to begin treatment, which like regular flu is being treated with tamiflu.

Barclay said that while a swine flu vaccine has been developed and should be available by the end of October from the local health department, pediatricians or local physicians, it’s not recommended that everyone get the vaccine.

Those most at risk — all pregnant women, all health care workers, and all people having to be in regular direct contact with an infant who is less than 6 months old — are the ones recommended to get a swine flu shot. Following that, the next most susceptible group would be the elderly, infants and children.

Those in the first group should contact their physician by late October to request a swine flu vaccine. The shot is still so new it’s being administered in two stages. Those getting the vaccine will receive half a dose one month, then get the other half the next month. They can get the H1N1 shot at the same time as a regular flu shot.

Also, health officials are asking people to hold off asking for tamiflu as those doses will be needed during flu season to treat those suffering the ailment — most commonly special needs individuals and older adults.

Those unsure about their child’s symptoms should also contact their health care provider to find out if the child needs to visit the doctor for medical treatment.

Flu is spread through person-to-person contact, coughs and sneezes of people who are sick, or touching something the sick person has touched, then touching your nose or mouth.

Thus, if you or your child exhibits symptoms of flu, staying at home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone is the best way to prevent spread of the sickness to others. That means if you’re truly sick, don’t go to work or send a kids to school, and don’t visit the grocery store or other public place until a doctor gives the OK or until your fever is gone.




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