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Health officials investigate possible case of swine flu

By Staff | May 1, 2009

An Lee County elementary school child is being investigated for a case of swine flu.
The Lee County Health Department called the case “suspect,” and is waiting on results from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga., to determine if the strain is H1N1, or swine flu.
Results are due in 24-48 hours.
Jennifer James-Mesloh from the health department said the child, a boy, began exhibiting flu-like symptoms Saturday.
The child went to school Monday through Wednesday, before being removed Thursday.
“(The child’s) initial tests were not positive for known influenza,” she said.
Lee County School District spokesperson Joe Donzelli would not reveal Thursday the name or age of the boy, or which school he attends.
The school district is sending out letters to the parents of children who attend the boy’s school. A second, generic letter is going to parents systemwide to keep them informed.
Donzelli urged calm and patience Thursday, as no one yet knows if the child is infected with swine flu.
“We don’t want to rush to panic or judgement,” he said.
While officials are unable to determine how many teachers or students have come into contact with the boy, Donzelli said the school district will not begin to “arbitrarily” close schools.
It has been determined neither the boy, nor the boy’s family, has traveled to Mexico. The Lee County Health Department said the family has not traveled anywhere.
While the test results are still out, James-Mesloh echoed the school district’s sentiments about remaining calm.
She said 36,000 people die each year from “known” strains of flu. Only 12 have died of swine flu in the United States since 2005.
The Lee Memorial Health System also is warning people to remain calm, practice good hygiene and stay home if they feel sick.
LMHS recommends people visit their primary care physician before considering the emergency room.
Dr. Stephen Streed, director of epedimiology for LMHS, said there has been increased activity in Lee’s emergency rooms, but he is unable to determine if it is wholly due to swine flu.
“We recommend to most patients that home care is the place of choice,” Streed said. “If people are feeling ill, we wouldn’t discourage them to come in, but we suggest their primary care physician first.”
The Lee County School District, along with LMHS, have several systems in place to battle possible pandemics, following the avian flu scare of 2004.
Donzelli said special areas will be designated for children who are symptomatic, separating them from children in school clinics who are not suffering the effects of swine flu.
“We’re hoping it’s just a strain of flu,” he said. “But we have put into place what we needed to.”