Bracing for the H1N1 flu virusAs the number of H1N1 flu virus cases in North Dakota continues to rise, planning to combat the influenza remains under way. The Grand Forks County Health Department participates in weekly video conference updates with the North Dakota State Health Department, said Delbert “Del” Streitz, Grand Forks County Health Department Emergency Preparedness coordinator.
By: Ann Bailey, Grand Forks Herald
As the number of H1N1 flu virus cases in North Dakota continues to rise, planning to combat the influenza remains under way.
The Grand Forks County Health Department participates in weekly video conference updates with the North Dakota State Health Department, said Delbert “Del” Streitz, Grand Forks County Health Department Emergency Preparedness coordinator.
As of Aug. 13, there were 66 confirmed cases of H1N1 in North Dakota, Streitz said and testing was being conducted on additional samples.
The North Dakota State Health Department and county health departments, which follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines, are recommending that “high-risk” groups of people receive the H1N1 vaccination when it becomes available. People at high risk to contract the H1N1 virus includes children in daycare, grade school, high school and college students, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems,
The immunization, which is expected to arrive at the Grand Forks County Public Health Department sometime in October, will require two vaccinations. People who want to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza will need a third shot.
The effectiveness of the H1N1 vaccination is not yet known because clinical trials are still under way.
However, Public health officials do know that preventative measures such as staying home when you’re sick with the virus, good hand washing and keeping a minimum distance of 6 feet from someone who has the flu is 72 percent effective, Streitz noted. If people have to care for someone with H1N1 virus they should wear a mask and if the patient can tolerate it, he or she also should wear a mask.
The Grand Forks County Public Health Department also is working with officials at UND and at area schools weekly about H1N1 issues.
Public health officials believe that closing schools should be a last resort, Streitz said.
“The policy is, we’re trying to keep schools open as best as we can. We won’t close the schools unless we have a very high instance of flu,” he said.
That’s because public health officials have learned that closing schools is not necessarily an effective way to prevent transference of the H1N1 virus. When schools in Texas were closed last spring, students just gathered in other places, Streitz said.
If students do come down with the flu they should stay home, and if they don’t have it, “it actually is beneficial if they’re in school,” he said.
Students who come down with the H1N1 virus should not return to school until 24 hours after cessation of their fever, Streitz said. The cessation should not be aided by medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, he noted.
Bailey writes for special features sections. Reach her at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to email@example.com.