Topeka (WIBW) - All the reports over flu and H1N1 have a lot of rumors spreading and parents wondering whether their child's school is safe.
Dr. Jo-Ann Harris, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stormont-Vail HealthCare, says H1N1 is strain of influenze that hasn't been seen before, so no one in the younger age group has no immunity to it. Because of that, she says it only makes sense that once the kids returned to school and were grouped together in one room only a few feet apart that the iillness would begin to show up more frequently.
Just what are the numbers? Officials with the Auburn-Washburn, Seaman and Silver Lake school districts said Thursday that while they are seeing more students with flu-like symptoms earlier than usual, absentee rates have not been unusual - far from the rumors they're on the verge of shutting down.
Dr. Harris says pediatricians are seeing a lot of patients and getting phone calls, and they are also seeing children in the hospital. However, she says the patient flow is not overwhelming and, most times, the kids are mildly ill.
Still, Dr. Harris says, it's serious enough that people should work to minimize the spread. If a child has flu-like symptoms with a fever, usually a temperature of 101 or higher, keep them home until they're fever-free without medicine for 24 hours.
Also, don't be surprised when you're told to let it run its course. Dr. Harris says the flu can hang on five to 14 days and anti-viral medications for the flu are only used in the most severe cases. She says to drink lots of fluids, use age-appropriate over the counter medications to treat the symptoms and watch for complications.
In particular, Dr. Harris says any difficulty breathing would be cause for concern. Plus, she says to contact a doctor about a prolonged high fever, or a fever that seems to get better then returns.
In addition, Stormont-Vail has signs posted discouraging any visitors under the age of 16. Dr. Harris says the recommendation is to protect young people from any germs in the hospital. Plus, children are good carriers of the virus and can spread it before they feel any symptoms, so it protects the patients, too.
Of course, washing your hands often and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces also are good ideas.
There is a light at the tunnel, though. As it spreads, kids are gaining immunity. Once you get H1N1, Dr. Harris says, you can't get it again. You can get seasonal flu or another strain of flu, but not H1N1.
Stormont-Vail automated flu hotline
Shawnee Co. Health Agency flu hotline
KDHE H1N1 hotline