Darnell said he could not discuss specifics such as grade levels or gender of the students, but said the first case was confirmed by the student’s doctor in Allen County.
Darnell, along with School Nurse Sara Cartwright, sent a letter home with students Wednesday addressing the matter.
In the letter, Darnell and Cartwright tried to ease parents’ worries, noting that all desks and common areas are being disinfected and hand sanitizer is provided in every classroom. The letter states: “The H1N1 flu is a mild flu. It will not be necessary to close school unless H1N1 becomes widespread.”
As of Tuesday, Whitley County Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hatcher said only one case of H1N1 had been confirmed in Whitley County and it was not one of the cases reported at Smith-Green. She said the discrepancy in reports could be due to the case being confirmed by an Allen County physician and not filtering back to Whitley County.
Despite attempts by officials to offer reassurance, viruses such as H1N1 often lead caregivers into undue worry. Hatcher said she wants parents to stay calm. The vast majority of people infected with influenza, even H1N1, experience a mild case which is highly treatable, she said. She added that everyday household cleaners, which contain bleach and alcohol, kill flu germs, so caregivers need not buy any special cleaners.
Hatcher did warn, however, that a person with the flu should see a health care provider immediately if they seem to be getting better and then suddenly take a turn for the worse. All forms of influenza can potentially cause severe complications or even death, especially in individuals with underlying factors such as pregnancy, diabetes, asthma and very young or very old age.
Hatcher offers some guidelines to prevent the spread of illness:
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue.
• Wash hands frequently, especially before eating.
• Contain the illness–Stay home if possible if you are experiencing coughing, sneezing or fever to prevent spreading it to others.
Hatcher also recommends getting both the H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccines. Check with your doctor as to the availability of the seasonal flu vaccine.
Whitley County will be receiving weekly or bi-weekly shipments of the H1N1 vaccine. The County currently has 300 doses of H1N1 nasal mist which is being distributed to the Health Department, Parkview Whitley Hospital and Parkview Occupational Health Clinic. Healthy individuals between the ages of two and 49 who are not pregnant may receive the nasal mist vaccine.
The Health Department will hold an H1N1 clinic Thursday, October 15 from 1:00-4:30 p.m. to administer the H1N1 flu mist vaccine to children ages two to nine years. The Health Department, which has 130 doses of the mist, also has 80 doses of the injectible H1N1 vaccine to administer to pregnant women.
Hatcher said she believes the H1N1 vaccine to be as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine because the development of the vaccine is basically the same as the flu vaccine and it has been used in other countries without complications.
To find out more about the H1N1 virus, visit http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1FLU/.