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Health experts: Don't panic over swine flu

Swine flu is not a reason to panic, health officials say. But after district officials said at least one swine flu case had been documented in each of nine Rock Hill schools, confusion ensued. The nine schools were bombarded Friday with calls from worried parents.

“I bet we have fielded, I can't tell you how many phone calls,” Saluda Trail Middle School Principal Brenda Campbell said Friday. “We've spent all day working on it.”

Since school started, one of Saluda Trail's roughly 900 students has been diagnosed with swine flu, Campbell said. “When you talk about kids, there's just that fear (among parents),” Campbell said.

“We had parents wanting to withdraw students from school,” Associate Superintendent Luanne Kokolis said.

The swine flu is widespread, said state Department of Health and Environmental Control spokeswoman Suzanne Sanders. “The whole world is seeing it. But it is still very mild,” she said.

People can go about their lives like they did before swine flu was discovered and treat it like the common seasonal flu, Sanders said.

Schools nationwide have ramped up cleaning and prevention efforts.

Across York County, schools are posting signs with prevention tips, disinfecting campuses and buses, handing out sanitizing wipes and encouraging students to wash hands thoroughly and often.

School nurses are watching for symptoms — stuffy or runny nose, body aches, fever, sore throat, chills — similar to the common, seasonal flu. They record suspected cases daily and notify DHEC.

According to Rock Hill schools lead nurse Joy Bower, these schools have documented at least one case of the swine flu virus:

Elementary schools: Old Pointe, Finley Road, Mount Holly, Ebinport, Richmond Drive.

Middle schools: Castle Heights, Dutchman Creek, Saluda Trail.

High school: Northwestern.

The Herald contacted health and education officials for answers to several questions raised Friday.

Why did several of the nine schools that The Herald reported on Friday had at least one case of swine flu tell parents that wasn't true?

It might be that nurses and educators weren't clear on how the virus is diagnosed.

Because it's too early in the year to see the common seasonal flu, anyone who is diagnosed with influenza A is considered to have swine flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some Rock HIll principals were caught off guard, unaware that a student at their school was thought to have the virus.

Although Ebinport Elementary School is one of the nine on the Rock Hill school district's list of those that have had confirmed cases of swine flu, Ebinport principal Shane Goodwin said he doesn't know of any student there who was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus this school year. And that's what he told parents who called, he said.

How worried should I be that my child could get swine flu?

“We don't need to worry,” said Suzanne Sanders, spokeswoman for the DHEC office that oversees York County. School and health officials said they expected that swine flu, also known as novel H1N1, would spread after school started.

The swine flu is so widespread that putting hundreds of children and teens together in a building almost guarantees it'll go around, health officials said.

But it's mild, even milder than regular seasonal flu, said Bowers, the Rock Hill schools lead nurse. And some people get over it quickly without medication, she said.

What should I do if I my child has flu-like symptoms?

First, stay home. Then call a physician's office to describe your symptoms. Some doctors prefer a call to patients coming to their office, where they could spread the virus, Sanders said.

But anyone with an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular diseases or a weakened immune system should contact a doctor immediately.

How can school and health officials be sure students are sick with swine flu?

If a person has flu symptoms or is diagnosed with influenza A, they likely have swine flu, said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Tom Skinner. Of thousands of cases the CDC is seeing, 98 to 99 percent are H1N1, Skinner said.

Also, local school nurses are keeping track of students who don't feel well and leave school. They call the students' homes to find out if they went to the doctor and what the diagnosis is.

Where can I get more information on swine flu?

Federal and state agencies offer lots of information. Here are resources:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: