Flu sickens 11.5 % of Summit County students
September 23, 2009
SUMMIT COUNTY – Health officials suspect H1N1 influenza to be the culprit keeping 11.5 percent of Summit School District students at home ill.
“It’s fairly widespread,” said Michelle Wilson, community nursing manager with Summit County Public Health. “There are illnesses reported in all of the schools.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, nobody in Summit County had tested positive for 2009 H1N1, or swine flu. Only people who are hospitalized are tested for H1N1 because it’s expensive – about $298 per person – to administer tests, Wilson said.
But people exhibiting flu-like symptoms are testing positive for a general influenza test. Because seasonal influenza doesn’t tend to hit until November or December, health officials are assuming a positive flu test to be H1N1, Wilson said.
“To date, nearly all influenza specimens subtyped by the state laboratory have been 2009 H1N1,” according to a health update from the county published last week.
About 3,000 students attend Summit schools. Wilson said childcare centers have been affected as well.
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“In preschools it’s more common because of the way preschoolers interact,” she said.
Wilson said it’s not typical to see many people with flu symptoms this early in the fall season.
The school district sent a letter to parents advising people with flu symptoms to stay at home at least 24 hours after the fever and symptoms have ended.
Wilson said that unless it’s an emergency, people experiencing symptoms are advised to call their doctors rather than visiting the offices and risking further spread of the illness.
Pregnant women, children under two years old and health care workers appear to be at higher risk for this type of flu virus.
“It doesn’t affect seniors like we’ve seen (with seasonal flu),” Wilson said.
However, the county health update states that while people over 65 are at lower risk of infection, they do risk more complications with illness than young adults.
People are advised to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu vaccine – which is already available locally – as well as the H1N1 vaccine to be available by December.
“Having had the disease does not confer immunity,” Wilson said.
While Wilson declined to speculate whether the wave of illness has peaked, she said it’s possible it could return in April.
“We do know that since it’s a pandemic, that it’s going to come back again,” she said, adding that such an illness usually comes in three or four waves.
Flu symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing – and people with swine flu have reported runny nose, nausea, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control.