Number Of Possible H1N1 Virus Cases In Oklahoma Schools Rises

Tuesday, August 25th 2009, 11:32 am
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- A new school year brings new cases of the H1N1 virus.  Officials now say there are eight suspected cases in area schools.  Five of the possible cases are in Broken Arrow, two are in Muskogee, and one is in Tulsa.  Unfortunately, health officials warn that the diagnoses could become common-place this fall.

Five students from five different Broken Arrow elementary and middle schools are now suspected of having H1N1.  The district says it is continuing to take steps to contain the virus.

"Extra efforts on cleaning, and emphasis on hand-washing, and communicating to parents and students that if we have illness in the household, they need to stay home, they need to be isolated," said Broken Arrow Public Schools' Lead Nurse Douglas Drill.

The new cases in Broken Arrow, as well as the two in Muskogee and one at Tulsa Public Schools, came a day after a grim report from a presidential advisory panel.  The experts say in a worst-case scenario, 30%-50% of the U.S. population could be infected with swine flu this fall and winter.

"1.8 million people possibly requiring hospitalization. Of that 1.8 million, 300,000 requiring intensive care admission, and then 30,000 to 90,000 deaths, mostly among younger populations," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton with CBS News.

The predictions come as everyone waits patiently for a vaccine.  It's still due in mid-October, but the government has asked drug makers to speed up its manufacture.  Until then, the Centers for Disease Control will be keeping its eye on the student population.

"When school starts again, the likelihood that those folks most likely to get H1N1, the school age population, they'll be back together, and you'll start seeing an increase in disease again," said the CDC's Dr. Daniel Jurniga.

It's a worry that has already become a reality in Broken Arrow.  For now though, instead of taking drastic precautions, health officials are making a simple recommendation.

"Washing hands, washing hands, washing hands. I can't say that enough," said Broken Arrow Public Schools' Lead Nurse Douglas Drill.

Broken Arrow is stressing that all of the children's symptoms have been mild so far.  The district says it is following CDC guidelines, and schools that have had suspected cases will remain open.

8/20/2009 Related story: Broken Arrow Student Diagnosed With Possible Swine Flu