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H1N1 flu case reported at Conococheague Elementary

August 31, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A case of H1N1 flu, commonly called swine flu, has been confirmed at Conococheague Elementary School, school board President Wayne D. Ridenour said Monday.

Earl Stoner, the county's health officer, said it's the first confirmed case in the school system, but not in the county.

Washington County has had "a handful" of H1N1 cases since the spring, when the flu spread rapidly across the country, Stoner said.

Last week, Maryland reported its seventh death connected to the H1N1 flu epidemic. Nationwide, 522 people had died and 7,983 had been hospitalized as of Aug. 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The flu has been a widespread health danger long before H1N1. The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said last week that about 1,000 Marylanders die every year from seasonal flu or its complications.

In July, federal and state health officials stopped updating the total number of confirmed cases of H1N1.

When the flu was discovered at Conococheague Elementary, it was important to ward off panic and be transparent by telling the school community what happened, Stoner said.

Conococheague Elementary School Principal Ryan Hench sent a letter to parents and guardians Monday about the flu case and what precautions are being taken to prevent other cases.

"Staff members have routinely been disinfecting the building on a weekly basis," the letter says. "As an additional precaution, we have taken proactive steps to disinfect our multipurpose room, rest rooms, and classrooms on a daily basis and have provided hand sanitizer for classrooms."

Stoner said the best preventive measure is for people to wash their hands with soap and water or with hand sanitizer.

People should sneeze into a tissue or their sleeve instead of their hands, he said.

The Conococheague letter also suggests:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Try to avoid contact with sick people.

  • Stay home from work or school if you get sick.

  • Students with flu-like illness should stay home at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever.

    Possible flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, chills, headache, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and shortness of breath.

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