Not taking H1N1 threat lying down

| September 20, 2009

With a vaccine still several weeks away and the H1N1 flu season already under way, area schools and synagogues are trying to raise awareness without causing unnecessary worry.

Rachel Gallagher said she planned to take the necessary precautions Saturday morning while attending Shabbat Rosh Hashanah services with her three children at the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.

The synagogue sent a letter to its congregants last week prior to services, warning them they would try to limit the spread of the H1N1 virus by having hand sanitizers and facial tissues available in all common and lobby areas.

"I think about it all the time because I’m also a school teacher," Gallagher said. "But at the same time, I can’t live my life always worrying about it."

With all of the hype surrounding H1N1, also known as swine flu, Gallagher said it’s tough to determine how concerned she should be when one of her children has a runny nose or other minor symptoms.

"Everyone seems to be doing a good job with awareness and prevention," she said. "For the first time this year, I’m definitely going to have all of my children vaccinated for the flu."

Franklin Township schools on Indianapolis’ Southeastside confirmed some cases of H1N1 last week, although the exact number was unknown.

"I can confirm we do have cases in our schools," said Chris MacNaughton, a school district spokesman.

Students in several township schools have been diagnosed with the virus, he said, but the district does not have an exact count because not all ill students are being tested.

Marion County Health Department spokesman John Althardt said that widespread testing is not being conducted as it was in the spring and that the decision to test a patient is up to individual doctors.

Both seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus are circulating in the area, Althardt said.

In Center Grove Schools in Johnson County, nurse Carla Slauter said there are no confirmed cases, but that the virus is likely in the district and just not being confirmed through testing.

"That’s a really hard thing to confirm because doctors aren’t testing for it really," she said.

In Richmond Schools in eastern Indiana, officials are taking no chances. Students there with flu-like symptoms won’t hang around the school’s clinic for hours waiting for a ride home.

Each Richmond school is establishing an isolation room for students who might have influenza and can’t immediately leave, one of many efforts schools are making to stem the spread of the H1N1 virus, Richmond Schools nurse supervisor Deb Stracener said last week.

Scrubbed buildings, sanitized hands and isolation of the ill are about the only preventive weapons public health officials have in the fight against H1N1, a flu virus not seen in more than 40 years that could cause widespread illness this fall and winter.

The Food and Drug Administration last week approved the H1N1 vaccine, but it may take up to a month for the first doses to reach local communities, officials said.

The newly approved vaccine appears to produce a "robust immune response" in most healthy adults in eight to 10 days after a single dose, so only one dose will be required for adults, according to the FDA.

In addition to the hand sanitizers, the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation encouraged anyone with flu-like symptoms, including fever, to worship from home Saturday by listening to a local radio station.

"It is important that we all do what we can to prevent the spread of the flu and keep our families healthy and our synagogue a healthy place to worship," the letter said.

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Category: Public Health

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