H1N1 Question: Is the Swine Flu in Trimble County?

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The answer is ... Maybe.

By Phyllis McLaughlin

The Trimble Banner

In a letter sent out to Trimble County parents Tuesday, Assistant Superintendent Jessica Wilcoxson reports that cases of Type A Influenza have been confirmed in all four of the district’s schools.

Type A Influenza is confirmed by a simple test in a doctor’s office. Health officials say a positive test for this type of flu can be assumed to be the H1N1 virus, commonly known as the Swine Flu.

Type B Flu, generally, is the seasonal flu that causes milder outbreaks than Type A. There also is a Type C Flu, which, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, is mild and does not cause epidemic outbreaks.

Vinay Chiguluri, an epidemiologist with the North Central Kentucky Health District in Shelbyville, Ky., said confirming the swine flu involves a very expensive test that normally isn’t covered by insurance. Therefore, actual cases of swine flu are not confirmed unless a person with symptoms lands in the hospital.

So far, CHF has confirmed 763 cases of swine flu statewide, wtih six reported deaths from the virus. Statistics are updated weekly at Healthalerts.ky.gov/Pages/FluActivity.aspx.

Wilcoxson said Monday that it’s crucial for parents and the public to understand that the school district has no confirmed cases of swine flu.

“We don’t know,” she said, but added that if even one case is confirmed “we will let everyone know. We will send out a note immediately.”

On Monday, Wilcoxson said there were 101 students absent districtwide, which is about 93.3 percent of the district enrollment. “It’s a little below average; we like to keep attendance at 95 percent.”

Attendance was slightly lower, with 132 children reported absent from kindergarten through 12th grade, or 91.1 percent.

“We don’t want to scare people; we want people to be cautious and to encourage good, healthy habits with their children,” she said.

The district has established a protocol for all schools to follow to try to prevent spread of the virus. Wilcoxson said the board has provided all schools with hand sanitizer, and teachers and staff are instructed to encourage students to use it often. Students also are told to wash their hands before and after lunch.

Classrooms and other rooms in the schools also are being disinfected, with desks, toys and other items wiped down several times a week in addition to regular cleaning.

Mike Genton, principal at Trimble County Middle School, said several volunteers are coming after school to disinfect classrooms three to four times a week, as mandated by the district administration. In addition to classrooms and equipment, they also are sanitizing water fountains and faucets.

“We are tyring to be as proactive as we can be,” he said. “We want to keep as many of our kids as healthy as possible.

Additionally, Wilcoxson said the board recently purchased a mist sanitizer for buses, which arrived Monday. Bus drivers were shown how to use the mist, which is sprayed at the end of the day after all students are dropped off. The bus doors are kept closed overnight to allow the disinfectant to work.

In an earlier letter to parents, Wilcoxson advises that children who show symptoms of the flu or have a fever be kept home for at least 24 hours after the fever is under control, without medication. Influenza is most contagious during the first 48 hours.

“Keeping children with a fever at home will reduce the number of people who may get infected,” the letter states, adding that children determined to be sick at school will be sent home.

Additionally, Wilcoxson asks parents to inform the attendance office staff when keeping a child home for symptoms or signs of the flu.