In Aug. 27 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
At least one case of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, has been confirmed in Russell County, according to Amy C. Tomlinson, public health services coordinator at the Lake Cumberland District Health Department.
Tomlinson said the individual, who was not named in a press release, was treated with antiviral medication and has since recovered from the virus.
Health department officials are asking for residents in the Lake Cumberland area to be on the lookout for symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, sore throat, cough, body aches, vomiting or diarrhea.
People should visit medical doctors, if necessary, and stay home from work, school and other public places until again feeling well, according to the department.
Russell County Emergency Management Director H.M. Bottom said the county does have a pandemic plan if the virus, which affects mostly pigs, ever reached that status locally.
"I've worked with the local health department on this issue and been to Louisville for a seminar where I had some classes about what to do at the regional and local levels if it ever became a pandemic," Bottom said of the H1N1 virus.
He said he has been in contact with Russell County school officials as well about preparedness and prevention of the virus and will have an organized meeting with school officials in the coming days to further inform them on proper steps to take.
At the Russell County Health Department, Community Health Educator Shirley Roberson said she is fielding a lot of questions about the flu virus, be it media or community-based.
"We just want to calm the community down, keep them aware and tell them not to panic," she said. "We're referring all the medical questions to our nurses."
She emphasized using common sense in keeping one's immune system healthy. "We want people to be sensible about any kind of flu," she said.
Roberson said the health department would be meeting with school principals and superintendents in the department's 10-county area in the next few weeks to go over H1N1 education tips and to provide proper handwashing techniques. That same education is provided to health care facilities, such as nursing homes and hospitals, if called upon, Roberson said.
"We're putting together a packet on state and in-county protocol," she said.
She said some people could get the H1N1 flu and their immune system be strong enough to handle it.
"Some people may be able to bounce right back," she said.
Patty Meece, the head of nurses in the Russell County school system, said she and her staff are stressing and encouraging students to follow good hygiene habits above everything else.
"Washing your hands and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze are key," she said. "As far as H1N1, we are working closely with the Department of Public Health on a preparedness plan in case of a lot of absences."
She said the plan would be unveiled at an upcoming school board meeting.
The first human cases of the H1N1 flu outbreak in the United States occurred earlier this year, in late March and early April, according to published reports.
The swine flu is thought by medical professionals to spread from person to person the same way that seasonal flu spreads, through respiratory droplets passed by coughing and sneezing.
Cristy Young, the director at the Russell County Senior Citizens' Center, said her staff at the center has not changed their regular routine of using Lysol on doorknobs, light switches and the like to sanitize the facility.
She said because the elderly are more prone to viruses in the first place, her staff has actually stepped up their cleaning processes and stressed washing hands now more than ever.
"We've talked to the health department and they have told us they will distribute (H1N1) flu shots for free," she said. Young said it would probably be October before the shots are given out at the center, after the local health department receives and distributes them at their office.
The swine flu vaccine is still under development but is expected to be available by mid-October, federal health officials have said. The vaccine calls for two shots, the second three weeks after the initial shot and immunity to the virus would not begin until two weeks after the second shot.
Roberson said this strain of flu calls for vaccinations for pregnant women, health care officials, people 6 months old to 25 years of age and people 25-65 with pre-existing health conditions, as well as the elderly.
The H1N1 virus could cause up to 90,000 U.S. deaths, mainly among children and young adults, in its severest form this fall, according to a federal report released this week by President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
The national report suggested that the virus could infect between 30 percent and 50 percent of the U.S. population during the upcoming fall and winter months that could land nearly 2 million people into hospitals. The CDC reports more than 7,500 hospitalizations and 477 deaths nationally as of mid-August due to the strain.
As of August 7, Kentucky had more than 160 laboratory confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza.
State health officials are warning that all flu cases at this time will appear to be H1N1 flu, as the seasonal flu is not yet circulating.
The state is planning for a forthcoming H1N1 vaccination campaign once the vaccine becomes available later this year.
Tips for preventing illness include avoiding close contact with those who are ill, staying home when sick, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth and frequent hand washing, according to the health department.
For more information on the H1N1 flu virus, visit: http://cdc.gov/h1n1flu or visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov for information on swine flu in Kentucky.