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Schools Reopening After Swine Flu Scare

For up-to-date national and regional news on the swine influenza, go to Texas Health’s landing page at: www.texashealth.org/body.cfm?id=3082

Fort Worth ISD to Reopen Schools
Fort Worth Independent School District will reopen schools for students on May 8 following the recommendation of the Tarrant County Public Health Department.

While health authorities have determined that the school district should be reopened, parents are urged to be vigilant.  Children who have flu symptoms and who are identified as having the flu should be kept at home for seven days.

Precautions: The Fort Worth Independent School District is working very closely with Tarrant County Public Health and both organizations remain watchful along with regional, state and national partners to protect the health of our students, and employees.

As with any infectious disease, Tarrant County Public Health along its regional, state and national partners recommends people take these measures:

  1. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also  effective.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  4. Try to avoid close contact with sick people

For up-to-date news on this matter, go to: www.fwisd.org

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Fears continue to rise as more local school districts shut their doors and parents are left wondering: How serious is H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and are my children really at such great risk? DallasChild has sought out a North Texas pediatric expert, as well as hard numbers to offer some perspective.

 

James Ulanoski, a North Texas-based board certified pediatrician, advises parents to stay calm. “In an average year 36,000 people die from the flu in the United States. Just last year we had 14,000 recorded flu related deaths,” Ulanoski says. “To compare, there has only been one swine flu related death in the U.S. and 75 in Mexico.” Ulanoski explains that the often misunderstood word, pandemic, may be part of what is promoting wide-spread panic. He explains that a pandemic means that it is a novel virus that is covering a certain geographical area. The term has nothing to do with how virulent or dangerous a virus actually is.

 

“At this point, the virus looks to be mild to moderate in virulence; if it mutates, the more people it spreads to – the more risk of death and mutations; but if it comes back in 6 months, we should have a vaccine for it,” Ulanoski says. When asked if he thought the closing of schools was a necessary step, he offers, “In order to prevent the spread, (closing schools) would probably be effective. However, all the malls, movies and restaurants are full, so we’re probably not accomplishing anything. This (swine flu) readily spreads within 3 feet without a problem, so if all these kids stayed home, the spread would probably decrease – but I don’t think they’re staying home.”

 

Ulanoski says his practice, which he shares with two other physicians, has seen 8 to 12 children, per doctor, per day who are brought in to be tested just for the flu. The majority of these children don’t even have symptoms. “At this point, the flu that came through earlier this year seems to be more severe than the swine flu currently is,” he says. Although he encourages parents to be aware of changes in their children’s behavior, should they develop symptoms, he adds that the treatment of Tamiflu is only effective 48 to 72 hours after initial infection, adding that “Even if you don’t bring your kid in, odds are very much in our favor they will get better on their own.”

 

As a final word to put the situation in perspective, Ulanoski adds, “The risk of getting on the plane with somebody with swine flu is less than getting on the plane with somebody with tuberculosis. Last year, there was a 1 in 8 infection rate for flu – this (swine flu) isn’t even one in a million.”

 

By the numbers (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.
  • Some children will die from the flu each year. During the 2007-08 flu season, CDC received reports that 86 children died from influenza-related complications.
  • Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old.
  • Children with chronic health problems like asthma and diabetes are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.