Some parents whose children attend Redding School of the Arts’ Tamarack site were worried and a bit rattled Wednesday when they received a recorded message from the school related to the H1N1 virus.
The message said that one of the student’s parents was confirmed to have the H1N1 virus.
The recording also said that although the infected parent had a child who attended Redding School of the Arts, that parent had not been at the school site, nor had any contact with the school’s other students.
On June 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) signaled that a pandemic of novel H1N1 flu – previously called Swine Flu – was underway.
Information on the WHO website warned that the H1N1 virus is not the same as seasonal influenza.
It said that with typical, garden-variety viruses, about 90 percent of the most severe and fatal incidents happen in people age 65 and older.
But according to the WHO this is in “stark contrast” to the H1N1 virus, where the most severe cases and deaths occurred in people under the age of 50.
Roxanne Burke, community relations manager for Shasta County’s Health and Human Services Agency, was not surprised to hear of the H1N1 report broadcast from the Redding school.
She said north state health officials have been aware of H1N1’s presence in this county for some time now.
However, Burke said she lacks specific counts of the number of H1N1 incidents in Shasta County because Shasta County tracks only H1N1 cases that result in hospitalization or death, as per federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Thus far, Shasta County has seen 5 hospitalizations and no deaths.
Plus, Burke said that private labs that test for H1N1 virus are not required to report H1N1 findings to the county.
“From a tracking viewpoint, we’re less concerned with confirming the case count of everyone who has H1N1, and more concerned with keeping track of severity,” she said.
Even so, Burke said she does know that of all the respiratory viruses in circulation in Shasta County, about 45 percent are related to the H1N1 virus, with the remaining viruses caused by typical colds and other types of flu.
Burke said that the school recording transmitted to Redding school parents contained an important piece of information that should put minds at ease: There was no direct exposure by the infected parent to the schools’ other students. Burke said that nevertheless, school officials will no doubt keep extra careful watch on the infected parent’s child for the first sign of any flu symptoms.
Considering the high-profile nature of H1N1, most schools are already diligent about looking out for potential flu symptoms.
Burke said her department’s educational guidelines recommend that schools closely monitor students and watch for fevers or coughs. And in the event a student does display tell-tale symptoms, Burke’s department suggests the ill student be sent home not be allowed back until 24 hours after they’re fever-free.
Likewise, she said the county’s website has important public information for not just schools, but businesses and individuals. It includes information from the CDC, such as the three steps to prevent illness.
“Our message is the same, one of protective measures,” she said. “That’s what we emphasize.”
Burke stressed people keep news of H1N1 in perspective. She said the majority of cases are fairly mild and never require medical attention. She said H1N1 is most dangerous to the medically fragile; the ill, the pregnant, and young children.
Regarding the availability of vaccines, Burke said Shasta County expects its first supplies by mid-October, but when they do arrive, the most physically vulnerable are the top priority.
“Eventually everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to get it,” Burke said.
“But we first want to cover those who are most susceptible to getting ill.”
Click here for more information about the H1N1 virus.
Public Health prepares for pandemic H1N1 Flu. Click here to see government press release.