* For more information on the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, state Sen. Jack Murphy recommends visiting the following Web sites: www.gema.state.ga.us, www.flu.gov or www.cdc.gov.
* The Forsyth County school system will post any updates online at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us.
State Sen. Jack Murphy met with Forsyth County school system officials Friday to learn how the district was preparing for the H1N1 virus, or swine flu.
“I wasn’t really surprised, but I was really pleased at how well they have gotten prepared to handle an emergency, should anything happen,”
Murphy said after the visit. “That was one of the reasons for the meeting was to make sure they were prepared.”
As chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, Murphy has been briefed by the state Emergency Management Agency on H1N1 virus preparedness. The Cumming Republican said the virus is no worse than seasonal flu, despite having triggered unnecessary rumors and fear.
Murphy told school officials that 311 cases of the virus have been reported as of July. Of those, 53 people were hospitalized. The two people who died, he said, had other illnesses that likely attributed to their deaths.
“That, to me, is not a pandemic yet that we have to fight,” Murphy told school officials. “But what’s gotten everyone alarmed is this thing happened in the summertime.
“This flu seems to attack the younger age population, and that’s what has gotten them concerned about schools and colleges.”
Evans told Murphy that it has been crucial to keep staff, parents and students informed.
“There may have been a little bit of a spike, or an uptick, in concern," Evans said. "But for the most part, I think our population has just been very, very responsible in terms of understanding.
“We have an educated parent body, for the most part, and they understand this. But it is really incumbent upon us to make sure that we communicate the right information and do the right thing.”
Debbie Rondem, the district's director of student support services, said the system has worked to direct parents to state and federal H1N1 information. The system’s Web site links to a federal Web site on the virus, as well as to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I’m really excited that you’re interested in educating people, because I think that’s a real issue too,” she told Murphy. “We’re trying to educate internally also.”
Murphy said vaccinations will be ready in October.
Nancy Rithmire, health services facilitator for the district, mentioned the possibility of nasal vaccination, instead of the two shots currently required.
She the vaccination process can be done as quickly as one school per day, a pace that could be quickened by the nasal vaccination.
Rithmire said nurses told her about students with flu-like symptoms as early as March, which is outside the normal flu season.
“I think we’ve been seeing this much longer than we’ve been hearing about it in the news,” she said. “I think we’ve already had it and we’ve dealt with it very well, and the children have been mild to moderately sick and then returned to school. So I think we had it, we just didn’t know what it was yet.”
The H1N1 is being treated like all communicable diseases, including chicken pox or the traditional, or Type A flu.
When a student has a confirmed case, parents are advised to keep their child home for 24 hours after a fever breaks. Parents of the students classmates are given a letter informing them of the illness.
“We want to just give them the education and facts, so that a letter doesn’t go home and cause more concern and more fear,” Rithmire said.
Murphy said it’s important for all county residents, not just those with children, to stay informed about the H1N1 virus.