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Precautions, not panic, best prevention against flu

Garfield County public health officials advise that parents shouldn’t panic if they hear of a flu case in their child’s school, and that proper precautions to stay healthy and disease free are the best medicine.

It is important for people to know that influenza, including the H1N1 or “swine flu” virus, is present in the county, Jim Rada, public information officer for the Garfield County Public Health Department, said Thursday.

And it’s more likely to spread now that local schools are back in session, he said.



But a rumored case of H1N1 at a New Castle school is unsubstantiated, Rada said. To date, the only confirmed cases of H1N1 in Garfield County related to schools have been in the Glenwood Springs area, he said.

The county as a whole has had a total of eight cases as of late June, but none since then.



“What we do know is that we likely still have H1N1 in [Garfield County],” Rada said. “We are hearing from the clinical community that they have had cases of type A flu, which is a seasonal flu, and is also the same type of flu as H1N1.”

Doctors are requested to confirm a case of H1N1 influenza only if someone is hospitalized, or if they are at risk for complications, such as women who are pregnant, Rada said.

Seasonal flu doesn’t typically show up this early in the school year, he said, so the fact that there are some cases this soon is a concern.

Nationally, health officials have warned that, after the outbreaks of H1N1 during the spring followed by a lull in cases over the summer, that the virus could become stronger this fall and winter.

“So far, this particular flu is presenting itself as a rather mild form,” Rada said.

Schools, because they involve a particularly susceptible population in a confined area where germs can be passed more easily, are a focus for health officials in preventing the spread of H1N1 and other types of flu.

“We are seeing pretty much what we expected … where right after school started we started seeing illness,” Rada said. “The point is there is always some level of communicable illness in our community, and the key is how to prevent the spread.

“Number one, if you’re sick stay home, and if your child is sick keep them home,” he said.

Influenza is a respiratory virus, with typical symptoms including high fever, head and muscle aches, extreme tiredness, dry cough and sore throat.

“With some cases we have seen some diarrhea and vomiting, but it’s mostly a respiratory illness with a fever,” Rada said.

The primary defense is to practice good health habits – eat right, get plenty of rest, “the things your body needs in order to resist the virus.

“It’s important for parents not to panic,” he added. “Kids get sick throughout year, so parents need to talk to kids about how to prevent the spread of illness, how to protect themselves, and to let them know if they’re not feeling well.”

Parents shouldn’t feel torn between keeping a child home from school if they’re sick and going to work.

“It’s also important for employers to understand that their employees, including those with children, may need to stay home, and that they may be short-staffed due to illness,” Rada said. “Now is the time to be planning and be prepared.”

jstroud@postindependent.com


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