Swine flu warnings issued in Wellington County schools

The acting Medical Officer for Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health has confirmed there are four cases of swine influenza in Ontario.

Dr. Nicola Mercer said in an interview late Tuesday afternoon three cases have been confirmed in Durham Region and another in York Region. In all cases, she said, the cases are “mild” and the victims are resting at home.

Mercer added, “People have to bear in mind this in influenza. Some are bad. Some are worse. Very occasionally we have a very bad strain.”

At press time, there were 13 total cases of the swine flu in Canada.

Mercer said the elderly and the young are the most at risk, and she pointed out this particular strain has moved from pigs to humans, and there is no vaccine available for it yet. She added that public health groups vaccinated thousands of people last fall but that flu strain is still hanging on in Ontario.

Further, she said, “That vaccine is not likely to protect against swine flu.” WDGPH issued a warning about swine flu to area schools on Tuesday.

Mercer said swine flu can transmit just like any other type of influenza, and people who are sick should simply remain at home. She said that is particularly true for those who have a new cough or are running a fever.

She said the means to ward off swine flu are the same as for others: wash hands frequently, remain at least six feet away from people who are ill, avoid touching hands to mouth and nose when out in public, and avoid touching thinks like handrails when in public.

Mercer said flu is transmitted by breath and germs expelled when cough­ing.

While there are no cases to date in Wellington County, Mercer said she expects it will eventually arrive here, too.

“I don’t want people to panic,” she said. I want people to realized there are things they can do to protect themselves.”

The swine flu strain appears to have started in Mexico, but with the way people travel, it has headed north rapidly.

The health warning from WDG Public Health noted that children are particularly likely to come into contact with viruses because of their close social circles of play; not always covering their coughs or sneezes; and not washing their hands.

It stated that in particular, elementary school children are at risk of both contacting influenza and spreading influenza in the event of an outbreak.

Flu symptoms include:

– fever;

– cough;

– sore throat; and

– muscle aches.

The press release also stated if children are ill and at school they should be isolated and sent home. Following a diagnosed case of influenza, children can return to school in seven days.

Public Health commu­nica­tions officer Lucia Zdeb noted that there are a number of respiratory diseases going around these days, and cited several cases of whooping cough found in Orangeville.

Centre Wellington District Secondary School emailed parents on its list about the Public Health notice.

Resource teacher Sue Dobronyi said of the warning that nothing has really changed for swine flu.

“It’s kind of what we do anyway,” she said. “If you’re sick you should stay home.”