Monday, August 31, 2009

A Flu Update - What you Need to Know about H1N1 (aka the Swine Flu)

We have received many questions about the Novel H1N1 flu virus (formerly known as the Swine flu). The H1N1 flu continued to spread over the summer in camps and schools. In the southern hemisphere, which is in the middle of its flu season, it emerged as the most common cause of the flu.

H1N1 symptoms are very similar to seasonal flu symptoms and may include fever over 100°, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. It is expected that most people will recover from H1N1 without needing medical care.

The spread of Novel H1N1 virus is thought to occur in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by contact with contaminated objects, such as occurs when a well person touches something that is contaminated by flu droplets and the contaminated hands are brought to the mouth, nose or eyes. (Flu virus can survive minutes to hours on surfaces).

Most cases of H1N1 have been mild, but there have been hospitalizations and deaths-just as there are every year with seasonal flu. To minimize the impact of this virus in our community, it will be important to heed the advice offered by public health experts.

The DeKalb County School System is working closely with the DeKalb County Board of Health (DBOH) and is receiving on-going guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) and the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). The school district modifies its procedures in response to revised guidance from these agencies.

What can you do to prevent the flu?
The key is to stringently follow sanitary measures to reduce the spread of germs.
#1. All persons are encouraged to frequently wash their hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Hand sanitizers are currently being placed in DeKalb County schools and other district facilities. The Lakeside PTSA is in the process of purchasing hand sanitizers that can be placed in every classroom at Lakeside. Encourage your child to wash their hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing, and to make use of hand sanitizers.
#2. Cover your cough/sneeze by using a tissue (and properly discard) or your sleeve if a tissue is not available.
#3. Do not share personal items such as drinks.
#4. Parents/Guardians should monitor your child for flu-like symptoms. Students, faculty and staff who appear to have a flu-like illness upon arrival at school or during the day will be isolated in a room away from others. The parents of students will immediately be called. Persons who appear to have a flu-like illness will be sent home.
#5. Get vaccinated. The CDC, DCH and DBOH encourage citizens in high-risk groups, such as school-age children to get vaccinated against seasonal and Novel flu viruses. The vaccine for H1N1 is anticipated to be available in mid-October.

Those with flu-like illness should follow the following exclusion period recommendations:
#1. Stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, without use of fever-reducing medicines and regardless of whether or not they are using antiviral drugs.
#2. Those who are sick should stay in the home during this period, except to seek necessary medical care, and should avoid contact with others.

How can you help?
#1. Keep your child home if he/she has flu-like symptoms and follow the guidelines provided above.
#2. Support prevention efforts by educating your child about proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Discuss with your child ways of staying healthy and the importance of staying home when they are sick.
#3. Send in hand sanitizer and Kleenex for your child's classrooms. We encourage our Lakeside families to assist us in our distribution of hand sanitizers by providing additional bottles to your child's teachers.

If your child is home with the flu, remember that they may be too ill to study while they are recovering. Contact your child's teachers to explain why your child is home and to make arrangements to keep up with assignments.

Remember that there are many illnesses with symptoms similar to those of influenza. For example, a common cold or allergies can cause nasal symptoms and cough. If you have questions about your symptoms or feel you need to be seen because of symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.

Up-to-date information on H1N1 can be found on the CDC website.

For more information about the swine flu from the DeKalb School System, please click here.

Many thanks to the Lakeside PTSA for this informative update!


Dekalbparent said...

Here's a question for the group:

Should the schools post notification if there is one or more confirmed case(s) of Novel H1N1 in the school's population? Would it be useful information of would it promote hysteria?

Anonymous said...

Mom's and Dad's: Teach your kids how to wash their hands the proper way. it's amazing as a teacher how many children either do not wash their hands or don't do it the right way!!!

Anonymous said...

Everyone should know if there are cases in your child's room, so that you can be looking for symptoms in your child and family, especially if you have people in your home who are in the high risk groups. Honesty is always better than the denying cases which is what is taking place in my school.

Anonymous said...

I know of at least 3 confirmed cases of swine flu at Lakeside and not the first email has been sent to let families know. Hand washing in the high school is a joke. Last I checked not one student at Lakeside would dream of ever using the soap dispensers. The tops are missing and rumors are that students spit and urinate in them. Lakeside was supposed to have gotten warm water in the restrooms next to the cafeteria about 2 years ago. If I had to guess I'd say it was never done. But that's just my cynical side showing through. Anyone know if this has been done?

Anonymous said...

Tonight at Dunwoody, the principal implored parents to notify him if a child has the flu. He says he can't act on rumors (ie sending communication.)

Anonymous said...

I want to comment about the statement about other illnesses. IMO, the "example" of cold and allergies is insufficient.

In speaking with many parents, I have heard (and experienced) that quite a few viruses are going around that are not flu but are much more severe than a cold. I cannot emphasize enough that everyone should refer to the CDC website BEFORE seeking treatment.
Whether it’s the flu or a virus, our kids are mostly better off at home resting than being shlepped to the doctor. Even with the flu, unless symptoms are severe, there is little the doctor can do except confirm or test for flu and prescribe Tamiflu, which is only effective if taken early in onset and only reduces the illness by about one day. (besides, the medical community wants to conserve the medicine for people most at risk of severe reactions to flu. I know most of us want our kids to get better NOW, but at what cost to others?)

A number of non-flu viruses are circulating, including at least one that presents with strep-like sore throat and fevers, and/or headaches and coughing.
Parents should not freak out about HINI unless our kids show severe and frightening symptoms. Even with flu, as the CDC site clearly states, the best treatment is also the least invasive and least expensive - rest and fluids – not running to the doctor. Unfortunately, calling for a nurse consult usually results in a “bring them in just in case” recommendation, which makes it hard to trust our instincts.

My daughter has been home with a virus that is similar to the flu in many symptoms, in particular mild to high fever and respiratory issues. There was a confirmed case of HINI the day she got sick. She “could” have the flu, but the lack of body aches and extreme fatigue indicate otherwise. Her sister was home for 10 days in July with fever viruses that tested negative for flu or strep. I took both to the doctor in spite of my instinct to keep them home b/c one had been exposed to strep in July, and my adult relatives guilted me into dragging the one who’s sick now, and I regretted not following my instinct and leaving her to rest.

As hard as it is, it is so importance to keep them home an extra day w/out fever to protect other kids (my daughter was fever two days w/out medicine then had spikes in the evening to 100.5-101 - unfortunately, just enough to make her miss at least two more days of school - ugh! Ironically, she is more worn out today, her fifth day of being sick, than all the others.
I think that is opposite of flu symptoms.
Rest, fluids, love and isolation. A trip to the doctor can't do much more than tire them out. Unless your loved one is seriously ill, keep them home and wash your hands a lot.

Paula Caldarella said...

Hand washing in the high school is a joke. Last I checked not one student at Lakeside would dream of ever using the soap dispensers.

Hand-sanitizers are better than soap. Small, purse sizes can be found anywhere. I bought several for my child - to carry in her purse, keep in her bookbag and in her locker.

Anonymous said...

Hand sanitizers are not better than soap and water--if soap and water is used properly. Teach your kids, and yourself, to lather up well and sing the Happy Birthday song all the way through before they finish washing. Now if the soap is contaminated . . .

Assume there is H1N1, or seasonal flu, among your kid's school population. There is flu in that population EVERY YEAR. To protect your kid and yourself, follow the steps outlined in the posting.


Paula Caldarella said...

Do you think students can just hop into the bathrooms at any time? Nope. There are restrictions on bathroom time and access. The use of alcohol based hand sanitizer's are recommended so that people can clean their hands when a bathroom is not available. Why do you think that teacher's "wish lists" contain tissues and hand sanitizer?

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to imply that sanitizers should not be used when handwashing is not convenient or possible. I've bought enough of it for my kids' classes! My point was just to clarify that--when presented with the choice--soap and water, done properly, is more effective.

Paula Caldarella said...

Sorry, anonymous, I agree with you. However, I have a diva daughter and she would never use a school bathroom - heck she won't even touch the hand rails on an escalator. But, she's smart and does use Hand Sanitizer.

Let's hope we all get through this school year without any major flu outbreaks, swine or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Please note that antibacterial hand sanitizers are completely ineffective against viruses. The schools should NOT be encouraging their use as this is how drug-resistant strains of bacteria are able to develop and flourish. The CDC recommends hand washing (with regular soap!) and good cough/sneeze hygiene.
Come on folks, you're being taken for a ride by the manufacturers of these products (and their relentless marketing efforts). Unnecessary use of antibacterials sets us all up for serious long term public health problems.

Paula Caldarella said...

From the CDC:

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

Anonymous said...

My husband is working on Novel H1N1 at the CDC. He told me about symptoms yesterday that I didn't know existed. Apparently, about 40% of cases are presenting with vomiting and diahrrea, which are not typical flu symptoms. (These symptoms are also accompanied by fever, like regular flu).
And, while we're talking hand-washing....I am always amazed that our schools have no hot water in the bathrooms. I always think of the guy who comes to ELPC meetings, excoriating the condition of our bathrooms. But in any case, if people DO wash hands, they should rub soap on hands, fingers, etc for as long as it takes to sing the Alphabet Song, then rinse. Nobody ever does that, but it's worth encouraging. I DO think it's worth wiping down desks, doorknobs, and other public surfaces every day.

Paula Caldarella said...

Here are some good tips from an article by Sanjay Gupta on CNN.COM based on his conversation with a Pediatric ER doctor:

Point 1. As things stand now, the vast majority of children who develop flu-like symptoms this fall will have a few miserable days, and nothing more. And those days are best spent at home -- not in the ER or a doctor's office.

Point 2. If you are worried, you should call your pediatrician's office first. Don't take your child in without calling. Two reasons: Your child may not have H1N1, but could become exposed by being around sick children. And, after several hours of waiting, you are still likely to be told the basics -- plenty of fluids, rest and dose-appropriate acetaminophen for a fever. After all, it is still the flu we are talking about. Dr. Gupta talks preparedness with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius »

Point 3. One doctor told me a way to think about things that was helpful. He said "remove the term H1N1 from the equation." If your child had regular flu, would you take him to the hospital? If the answer is no, then don't take him/her to the hospital now.

Point 4. Yes, hearing between 30,000 and 90,000 could die from H1N1 is scary, but keep in mind -- around 40,000 people die from the regular or seasonal flu every year. The numbers may not be that much different, yet there is not panic about the regular flu. As things look now, H1N1 is causing only mild to moderate illness, not the widespread deaths people are worried about.

Point 5. There are some children who should be seen by their doctor. Call your doctor if:

• A baby younger than 12 weeks has a fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit

• A child, older than 12 weeks has a fever for three days

• A child's fever returns after a 12-24 hour time period

• A child is not passing urine or making tears for more than six hours

Cerebration said...

Good stuff, Dunwoody mom - thanks.

Also - the deaths from flu usually occur in compromised people (health issues already) and the elderly. My mother-in-law lives in an assisted living (Alzheimer's) facility and it's a big worry.

I'd also like to remind people to never give children aspirin or products that contain aspirin. One of my friend's child got Reyes Syndrome years ago and it was harrowing. Stick with Tylenol.

Dekalbparent said...

ONE (and only one) of my kiddo's teachers at DHHS asked each of them in the class to bring in clorox/lysol wipes and hand sanitizer. She has the kids wipe down their desks at the end of each class.

Hooray for her - all the teachers should be encouraged to do this. I'll bet parents would not have a problem shelling out the $$ to send wipes to school for each class.