Representatives of Brown County schools, including Victory Life Academy and Howard Payne University, met Tuesday morning with officials of the Brownwood-Brown County Health Department to discuss swine flu prevention and containment.
Emily Gore, public health preparedness coordinator with the local health department, said shipments of vaccine for the H1N1 virus are expected to arrive here on Sept. 30, Oct. 15 and Oct. 30. Shipments are anticipated weekly beginning in November.
“It will probably be two doses,” Gore said. “We don’t know how much will be in those shipments, but the priority groups will include school-age children.”
Gore said in Texas, approximately 5,200 cases of swine flu have been reported, and 270 people have been hospitalized since the first outbreaks last spring. The state has recorded 38 deaths from the flu, although all of those have been individuals with other underlying conditions. Separate testing has been discontinued, and current flu cases are assumed to be swine flu until the usual flu season begins later this year.
In addition to the swine flu vaccine, residents are also being encouraged to get the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible, which will involve only one injection as in years before.
“H1N1 is going to exhibit itself just like regular seasonal flu,” Shannon DeLa Cruz, R.N., infection control specialist at Brownwood Regional Medical Center, told school officials. That will include a fever of more than 100 degrees, topping out at 102 in most cases, with a cough and sore throat. As many as 40 percent of patients will also have nausea and diarrhea, she said.
“Often it is mild,” DeLa Cruz said. “Some people may think it’s not much more than a summer cold, or a fall cold.”
Gore said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended school closings last spring, but that’s is no longer the suggestion.
“Each school district has its own closure plans, and we definitely recommend that you know those plans,” Gore said. “If a kid gets sick, we really want to recommend they be sent home.”
The local health department is asking for full participation in flu reporting, and forms were distributed at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We’ll be looking for clusters of flu to help us with containment,” Gore said. “People need to stay home when they’re sick. They need to cover their coughs and sneezes and have good hand hygiene.”
Promotional materials that can be used at schools were made available. Hand washing curriculum that can be used by schools or presented by health department personnel were also discussed.
“We’re stressing for everyone to get the seasonal flu vaccine,” Gore said.
The possibility of schools hosting shot clinics were also discussed. Decisions on those will be announced by officials from the various schools.