Schools record first seasonal H1N1 case
Alameda Unified has what appears to be its first recorded case of the H1N1 flu this school year. But county public health officials say the illness is likely far more widespread and that the news is no cause for panic.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we want to make you aware that a Franklin student was diagnosed this week with the H1N1 strain of influenza,” a note to parents from Student Services Director Jeff Knoth said. It said the student was taken to the hospital but not admitted, and was returned home.
Alameda County Public Health Department spokesperson Vanessa Cordova said that per state guidelines issued in July, public health officials are now only counting H1N1 hospitalizations, and not illnesses that are reported to doctors. “It’s just another strain of influenza A, and (doctors are) diagnosing it empirically,” Cordova said, adding that treatment of H1N1 is the same as treatment of other flus.
District Nurse Rens Kleinman said she thinks almost all the flu cases the district is seeing now are H1N1.
Knoth wrote that the district would follow the county public health department’s guidelines for handling confirmed cases of the illness. “This means that we will not close school and we do not recommend that you keep healthy students at home,” he wrote.
Knoth asked parents to keep their kids at home if they have flu symptoms, and said that children who come to school with such symptoms will be sent home. Students must be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school, and a doctor’s note is not needed.
Symptoms of the H1N1 virus include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.
To avoid getting sick or spreading the illness, the CDC recommends that people get their flu vaccines as they become available, and to take everyday steps like covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze; washing your hands with soap and water; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and avoid contact with sick people.
The severity of the illness ranges from mild to severe, their H1N1 web page says, and while the illness has caused hospitalizations and deaths, most people recover from it without specific treatment. Most of the hospitalizations in the U.S. have been of people who have other medical conditions that include asthma, diabetes, heart disease and pregnancy.
The virus was first detected in the United States this past April, and was labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization in June. President Barack Obama declared it a national emergency this past weekend, an effort designed to combat the flu more effectively. As of October 20, 224 people were hospitalized with the illness in Alameda County, and 17 have died, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department.
County public health officials are hosting a series of free vaccinations, including an H1N1 vaccination at Alameda Hospital at 9 a.m. December 12. The event is geared toward the Island’s uninsured, and specifically for people who are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. I’ll have more for you as the event approaches.