Swine flu confirmed in at least two youngsters - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Swine flu confirmed in at least two youngsters

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  It's confirmed. At least two of the children in groups of sick kids in Albany and Leesburg have swine flu.

Health workers say they believe all 32 of the kids with flu symptoms have H1N1. The children are part of two clusters who fell ill.

In Albany, they attended the Dougherty County summer program, in Leesburg, they were on a church youth trip.

Health officials have a warning for care givers potentially dealing with the H-1N-1 virus as they prepare schools for dealing with the virus.

health officials will be sending packets to five school systems along with a letter going to every school system letting parent know what they need to do to keep their students safe. Health officials say as the number of cases rise in southwest Georgia so does the effort to keep the community healthy.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital has treated at least two of the confirmed cases of H1N1 in southwest Georgia. To treat a patient they've got to follow special protocols set by the CDC which requires special equipment.

"You can only order so many of theses at a time because they don't want people hoarding them. This is a special kind of mask that they're asking us to use for suspected H1N1 cases that are hospitalized," said Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Senior V.P. Medical Affairs Dr. Doug Patten.

With as many as 32 cases recently among students age two to 18, health officials are making recommendations to schools as students head back to classrooms.

"Frequent hand washing with either soap and water for 20 seconds or an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Covering coughs and sneezes, not putting your hands to your nose , your face, your mouth," said Southwest Georgia Health District Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

Information will be sent home in five essential schools who will also report any increases in absences. Health officials are warning those caring for someone with suspected H1N1 to wear a face mask if they're within three feet of the person and for those at high risk of contracting the virus to avoid the sick person altogether.

"We can't underestimate the number of deaths each year annually in the united State due to annual flu or the hospitalizations and so we're coming into a season where we're going to have seasonal flu and this flu is still there," said Grant.

That's why seasonal flu shots will likely be administered as early as August and are recommended for everyone to help cut down on the strain hospitals may feel should cases of H1N1 increase in southwest Georgia.

"A surge of patients of any sort is something we always contemplate and we look to agencies like public health department to coordinate that across organizations to hopefully create an efficient and effective response in the community," Grant said.

Health officials will be looking for an increase in the severity of the virus rather than an increase in cases as they go forward.

In Georgia so far there have been 267 confirmed cases of pandemic H1N1 virus and 44 hospitalizations. Earlier this month a Cobb County woman died from complications with the H1N1 virus.

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