GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The flu-like illness that closed three middle schools in CalhounCounty is likely H1N1 and not the seasonal flu, the county's healthdirector told 24 Hour News 8.
"Our surveillance would suggest that the entire load ofinfluenza-like illness is due to the pandemic influenza," Dr. GregHarrington said. "There's no evidence that we have the typical orroutine seasonal influenza currently circulated."
Some Calhoun County schools are seeing as many as 30 percent ofstudents sick with flu-like symptoms. Athens Middle School,Lakeview Middle School and Harper Creek Middle School areclosed.
"It didn't surprise me," said Wendy Davis, the parent of astudent at Harper Creek Middle School who is also a physician'sassistant. "I've heard from other people that it's going around.We've seen it in our office so there's a lot of flu around. Closingthe school and keeping the kids away from each other is a goodidea."
The Calhoun County Public Health Department is watchingdistricts around the county, not just the ones that are closed.
"We've asked the schools to keep track of school absenteeism andto report when those numbers start to hit the critical mass of 20percent," Harrington said. "Then, we keep in track of them byphone."
Parents shouldn't be keeping kids home from schools that aren'tclosed, unless of course they're sick, the health departmentmedical director said.
But he is worried that parents -- and adults in general -- arenot talking the flu seriously. Harrington points out it can bedeadly, even in populations that don't normally suffer seriousconsequences from the seasonal flu.
Kids with the day off should not be spending time with groups ofclassmates, he said.
"In a regular seasonal flu situation, where you have moreimmunity in the group in the children, you might be able to getthrough a flu season without any special mitigation, without anyspecial changes," Harrington said. "However, this is verydifferent. This is a pandemic virus and none of these children haveany immunity and none have them have been vaccinated yet. And itseems to be highly infectious."
His department -- which already has been vaccinating medicalproviders -- is now vaccinating pregnant women by appointment.
And starting Tuesday, healthy children in Calhoun County ages2 to 24 can get vaccines at the Toeller building in Battle Creek,190 E. Michigan Ave. from 8 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. Theclinic will run while supplies last and is scheduled to continue onWednesday and Thursday. You can call (269) 969-6363 for moreinformation.
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