Friday, October 23rd, 2009
H1N1 flu cases confirmed in Grand Lake area
By Shelley Grieshop
Mercer County has confirmed its third case of H1N1 flu and officials are awaiting test results on four others. Many more cases are suspected, but specific H1N1 tests aren't being ordered in each case.
A "couple of cases" were confirmed recently in Auglaize County, although health officials there won't say how many or provide further information.
Everyone confirmed with H1N1 flu is recovering, officials told The Daily Standard this morning.
One of the two cases confirmed this week in Mercer County involves a Celina High School youth. The boy was never hospitalized for the illness, according to Joyce Jansen of the Mercer County-Celina City Health Department.
The other recently-confirmed case in Mercer County is a 51-year-old man who was hospitalized for the virus, Jansen said.
The first confirmed case in Mercer County involved a 14-year-old child who was diagnosed with H1N1 in June after spending time at a missionary work camp in Lexington, N.C.
Auglaize County Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons said she refuses to give information that might identify H1N1 flu victims. She also doesn't feel it's important to keep "count." Many more people have the virus than what is being confirmed anyway, she added.
"H1N1 cases are everywhere," she said, adding most cases have not been confirmed by lab tests.
Some area physicians reportedly are telling patients they have H1N1 - even if they've not been specifically tested for it - because its presence is known to be widespread across the U.S. A vast majority of people have been found positive with "Influenza A," which could also be H1N1 and requires the same treatment. Further testing must be completed to positively confirm H1N1.
The Mercer County health department decided to order H1N1 flu testing of the recent victims because some were hospitalized and others were part of a cluster of people with like symptoms. Jansen currently is awaiting test results for four more Mercer County residents suspected of having the H1N1 flu. All were hospitalized, although some may have been dismissed by now, she added.
Jansen said she continues
to monitor absenteeism rates at Celina High School, as well as other school districts in the county. So far, Immaculate Conception School in Celina is the only district that reported a bout of high absenteeism blamed on influenza. Several weeks ago, half the students and staff at the Catholic school called in sick and the school subsequently closed for the day.
Celina City Schools Superintendent Matt Miller said letters went out to parents on Thursday informing them a student had H1N1 flu and instructing them how to stay healthy. The student with H1N1 is not in athletics, which eases some concerns of a mass pupil to pupil outbreak, he said.
Miller said letters also went out earlier in the school year to advise parents and students how to prevent exposure to the illness and related information on the subject. Since school started, sanitizing procedures have been stepped up, he said.
"We have more hand sanitizers around now," he said, adding that teachers continue to teach students good hygiene practices.
Miller said he has kept close contact with the health department about the issue and will continue to do so.
Symptoms of H1N1 are similar to the seasonal flu virus and include fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Treatment for both types are generally the same and those infected generally recover within a week or 10 days.
Nearly every severe H1N1 case reported in the U.S. has involved people with chronic or underlying health issues, Jansen said.
The main difference between the H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu is when they strike. The seasonal flu typically hits the local area in late December and lasts through spring; the H1N1 virus has crossed the globe and continues to infect the population since it was identified in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaccines for the seasonal flu are currently being distributed to the general public. Unfortunately, H1N1 vaccine is arriving slowly and in small shipments in the Grand Lake area. People given first priority for doses include health care workers, pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months old, health care and emergency medical services personnel, people between 6 months through 24 years old and adults 25 to 64 years old who have chronic health problems.
Jansen said she will notify each priority group and set up distribution clinics as soon as she has an adequate supply of H1N1 vaccine in hand. This week she is completing H1N1 flu vaccinations for emergency medical services personnel.
Ten other area providers such as physicians and nursing homes also have ordered the H1N1 vaccine for distribution to patients and/or staff members. To date, none of those providers have received their shipments, Jansen said.
Health officials continue to urge the public to take precautions against H1N1 flu by washing hands frequently, staying home when symptomatic and following other important steps. Further information on the subject can be found at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu.
Jansen fears the H1N1 flu virus will be around for some time.
"They expect high activity this winter," she said. "This could get really crazy unless we can get everyone vaccinated."
Seasonal flu vaccine coming:
Mercer Health announced Thursday that officials will begin offering seasonal flu vaccines - not H1N1 vaccines - beginning Tuesday at two Mercer County sites.
The vaccines will be distributed 10 a.m.-noon at Briarwood Village and 2-4 p.m. at Peoples Bank in Burkettsville.
Renee Kinney, director of wellness services, said the organization received a limited number of vaccines but hopes to offer several clinics next week.
Kinney reminds the public the vaccine is strictly for seasonal flu, not the H1N1 flu. The two are separate strands of flu and require separate vaccinations
If there is enough seasonal flu vaccine left after Tuesday, two other clinics will be held on Wednesday. Tentatively planned is a clinic from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Coldwater Public Library and from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Fort Recovery.
The shots cost $30 each for adults 18 and over or are free to participants in the Medicare Plan B program, Kinney said.
Anyone seeking further information about the clinics should call 419-586-1220.
- Shelley Grieshop