Close Encounters of a Third Swine: Flu Hits BHS
November 21, 2009
Filed under News
By Jared Skoff, Staff Writer
If you walked into the waiting room at a doctor’s office in the past few weeks, you might have seen
something resembling the following: two separate doors leading into the room, one labeled “Sick
Patients” and one labeled “Well Patients.” Once inside, the people in the waiting room are also divided into
these two categories. The secretaries sitting behind the front desks are wearing germ masks. And no one
is talking. People sit and wait for long stretches of time without saying a word to one another. The fear
of swine flu is very real, but is the threat as serious as we think?
Beachwood began taking precautions for H1N1 this past spring when the first outbreaks started in
Mexico. The Ohio Department of Health is having all schools send a daily report on the percent of students
out sick. If the number absent is greater than 10% of the students, the administration will consult with
the Health Department to decide whether or not to close the school. However, currently the Center for
Disease Control and the Health Departments are recommending that schools stay open unless the
outbreak is very large.
“There are definitely more kids out sick this year than there have been in a long time,” said school nurse
Kelly Debeljak. She explained that school absences hit their highest peak a few weeks ago when there were
131 students out sick, which is over 20% of the high school. “It was really bad in October, but now it’s
not quite as bad, but swine flu infections tend to go in peaks,” she continued. Currently the absence rate is
back down to 2-3%.
School librarians Jennifer Flaherty and Paige Dudley both have said that they are not doing anything different to prevent getting swine flu. “This has definitely been exaggerated and sensationalized by the media,” Dudley said. They both stressed an emphasis on maintaining personal hygiene by washing hands throughout the day and taking vitamins.
When asked about the ubiquity of swine flu, Debeljak explained, “A larger number of people are
getting infected because since it is relatively new, there is not as much immunity.”
The Center for Disease Control does explain that while young adults, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing medical conditions have the highest risk of being infected with H1N1, the age group 18-64 has
a higher percentage of death as a result of swine flu.
When asked about the fears of more serious illness and death as a result of swine flu, Debeljak said that
“there are more complications with swine flu than there are resulting from the normal flu. The fear of serious complications comes in if you have a pre-existing medical condition or you develop a secondary medical condition.”
Regarding the fear of death as a result of H1N1, according to statistics by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, 60 million Americans suffer from the regular flu each year, and 36000 of these people die as a result. As for swine flu, 22 million Americans have been infected since April, and 3900 of these people
have died. That means that 1 in every 1667 infected people die from the regular flu, which is a much higher
rate than the 1 in every 5641 infected people who die from swine flu.
As for preventing swine flu, Debeljak recommends getting both regular flu and swine flu shots for optimum
health. She also emphasizes regular handwashing, discourages sharing of utensils, and stresses that if you have any indication of swine flu symptoms, make sure you stay home and consult a doctor. Common symptoms are fever, cough or sore throat, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, and pain/pressure in your chest.
She also said to expect additional swine flu infections to continue until the warmer months.