Emergency planners discuss swine flu

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The big topic on the minds of members of the local emergency planning committee on Tuesday?


H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, continues to be the main concern of emergency responders and health officials, especially with school back in session.

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Jenni Guerry, emergency preparedness official with the Alabama Department of Public Health, said swine flu cases dropped off the radar during the summer, but the opening of schools across the state in early August has brought the bug back with a vengeance.

“There was a bit of a lull,” said Guerry. “But now hospitals and doctors are being inundated with patients.”

Guerry said doctors are no longer testing for swine flu, but rather treating any patient exhibiting flu-like symptoms as if they had the H1N1 virus. As such, the portion of the ADPH’s website that lists confirmed cases, (30 in Butler County), across the state is not accurate.

“For every one confirmed case there is likely 100 to 1,000 unconfirmed cases,” said Guerry.

Schools continue to be a hotbed of influenza activity, said Guerry. The Greenville schools are currently the ones affected the most, although attendance numbers have slowly began to return to normal levels.

Particularly hit was Greenville Middle School.

In a five-day period between Aug. 18 and Aug. 24, the school average 121 absences, with a one-day high of 151 absent students on Friday, Aug. 21, according data from the Butler County School District.

Michele Nowlin, who also works in emergency preparedness with health department, said Butler County’s absenteeism at schools was the highest in the state last week.

Guerry said health officials believe swine flu is currently in in its second wave, with a third wave anticipated.

“Pandemic is a global term which means the virus is globally distributed,” said Guerry. “I know pandemic is a scary word, but we have been fortunate that the symptoms of this virus are relatively mild and comparable to the seasonal flu.”