Murray, KY – -fall is just around the corner and local schools are gearing up for a potentially hazardous flu season in lieu of the H1N1 swine flu strain. Peak flu season, still ahead, poses a potential threat to the 55 million students and 7 million staff in public grade schools across the United States. Murray Independent School District Nurse Pam Oakley expresses concern for the upcoming flu season.
"Of course the flu every body is looking at is the swine flu and we really don't know, its kind of an unknown right now."
-Kentucky recorded its first case of swine flu this past April. Between the following months of May and June the Center for Disease Control and the Kentucky Department of Health studied the H1N1 flu virus. KDH Commissioner William Hacker explains in a recent telephone briefing their findings.
"It became clear that it was not as dangerous as perceived initially from Mexico reports, and in fact appears to be of similar virulence to seasonal flu that we deal with every year."
- Swine flu has reached a regional status appearing in many places. 70% of individuals hospitalized for swine flu have been under the age of 49. Commissioner Hacker explains why Kentuckians should take extra caution
"We normally start school seasons with no flu activity in the United States, it normally doesn't start until late fall. This year we are starting school with H1N1 flu activity ongoing particularly in the young populations. So it would only be reasonable to assume that we will expect to see more flu cases as students gather together in a school setting."
-Murray and Calloway County school districts are working closely with the Health Department to spot potential outbreaks and keeping parents informed. They are taking a proactive approach by isolating students that are ill until a parent can take them home. If care is required by staff they are advised to wear protective gear like surgical masks, goggles and gloves. Officials stress those exposed to public places, especially school settings, should use hygienic practices as a good offense against spreading swine flu.
"We talk about hand washing, especially the younger kids we've taught them to sneeze into their elbows; ever since I've been here we've taught them that. We're just talking about things more, you know educating the children more about washing their hands, but that's something we've done always."
-Every offense needs a defense, a vaccine is currently in development. 45 to 50 million doses of a swine flu vaccine are predicted to be available sometime mid-October. 20 million doses will be available each week after that until the need is met. Groups strongly recommended for vaccinations are to Health care workers, infants, infant caretakers, individuals between the ages of 24 and 64 with chronic health conditions and pregnant women.
-For WKMS News I'm Paco Long-Mendez