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The H1N1 virus, sometimes referred to as swine flu, reached Kentucky several weeks ago.
The disease, so far, is a “not any more dangerous than regular seasonal flu,” Department for Public Health Commissioner William Hacker, M.D., said Wednesday in a telephone briefing.
“… but still that’s a concern because seasonal flu can be quite serious. I’m concerned, but I’m not alarmed.”
Wendy Keown, information officer for the Lincoln Trail Health District, said the local area saw “some increase in H1N1 over the summer, but the severity (of the illness) has not increased.”
Unlike seasonal flu, which affects mostly older people, H1N1 seems to strike the young. Some schools across the state have closed due to flu outbreaks.
It is too early for seasonal flu “so any (current) case is likely to be H1N1,” according to Keown.
Local school officials are watching attendance rates and have “stepped up precaution measures,” Keown said. “Some are doing ‘squirt breaks’ with hand sanitizers.”
According to Director of Pupil Personnel Mike Brown, no confirmed cases of H1N1 have been reported to the LaRue County school system by the DPH or the CDC.
DPH reports a weekly level of flu activity on http://healthalerts.ky.gov instead of individual case counts.
Individuals could be diagnosed with H1N1 by their family doctors – but no official notice has been given to the school, he added.
The schools are being “proactive” in avoiding a flu outbreak, Brown said. Hand sanitizers and paper cups are being used and students are being reminded to wash their hands. Custodians and teachers wipe off desk surfaces every day.
A letter was sent home with students Wednesday to offer advice about symptoms and prevention of the flu. It encourages parents to keep children at home if they exhibit flu symptoms such as runny nose and cough, sore throat, fever, chills and diarrhea and to encourage good hygiene.
The day after the letter was sent home, district attendance fell to 93 percent, Brown said. The attendance rate is usually at least two points higher.
The H1N1 vaccine will be available mid-October to mid-November.
Hacker said there will be “vaccine sites around the state that will be fairly convenient for everyone, and we’re in the process of developing a Web site where people can register if they would like to receive the vaccine so they can administer it themselves.”
For additional information on swine flu, visit www.flu.gov or healthalerts.ky.gov for information on H1N1 and Kentucky.