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H1N1 Widespread in Indiana


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"As two metropolitan Indianapolis elementary schools informed parents

this week of possible cases of the H1N1 virus, the state health

commissioner said Hoosiers should assume the strain is everywhere.



"We have determined that in August, 98 percent of the influenza cases

are H1N1," Dr. Judith Monroe said Wednesday. "Whether you receive a

letter from your school or not, my message to parents across Indiana

is: This virus is already in your schools and in your community. We

are certainly not asking for panic, but we must communicate."



The state, which tallied confirmed H1N1 cases this spring and summer,

has stopped keeping an official count. Officials know the virus is so

widespread -- about 6,000 in Indiana likely have had H1N1 -- that

keeping track of the mild flu strain is not worth the expense, Monroe




She also doesn't think schools should send a letter to parents every

time they have a confirmed or suspected case. Officials in Avon and

Noblesville sent notices of single cases in each district this week,




In addition, the affected schools had doorknobs, tables, desks and

floors thoroughly cleaned to prevent the spread of the virus.



Avon Superintendent Tim Ogle was unsure how his district would handle

confirmed cases in the future. But he said he thought Tuesday's letter

to Maple Elementary parents was warranted.



"We had 95 percent attendance at Maple (on Wednesday)," he said. "So I

believe the plan is working, and the communication was well-received.

It's really important all of us respond in a way that is not

overreacting or underreacting, and we've done that."



In Noblesville, Forest Hill Elementary administrators learned Tuesday

that a child who had not been in school this week might have the

virus. The child's doctor said the child had a probable case of H1NI,

according to an e-mail to parents from Mark Booth, director of student




In Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern officials have reported one

confirmed case and several suspected cases since the start of the

school year.

(2 of 2)



Though Carmel Clay Schools has received no reports of H1N1 cases,

Director of Student Services Steve Dillon said officials might never

know unless parents report it.



"The (Hamilton County) Health Department will not notify us," Dillon

said, because of a federal law that protects the privacy of health





"Last year, they did notify you, but that was because they were

shutting you down. This year, they've already made it clear they won't

shut us down unless too much personnel or kids are gone that we can't

effectively run the school."



Indianapolis Public Schools and most other Marion County public school

districts have no cases of H1N1 flu. Only Lawrence Township Schools

did not respond to a request for information.



Checks on Wednesday with Zionsville, Greenfield-Central, Mount Vernon

and Southern Hancock found no flu cases in those districts. Other

metro-area districts have not reported flu cases.



The state's health commissioner said experts knew the virus would

spread more quickly once school started. They also expect the virus to

become more widespread with cooler weather, the typical flu season.



State health officials will ask schools to consider closing if the flu

causes absenteeism to rise above 20 percent or the severity of the

virus increases, Monroe said.



She said H1N1 symptoms remain so mild that the Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention has recommended only normal practices to

prevent flu, such as washing hands regularly and keeping children with

flu-like symptoms at home until they are fever-free without medication

for 24 hours.



National health experts don't expect the virus to behave much

differently from the way it has thus far, said Capt. Raymond Strikas

of the U.S. Public Health Service's National Vaccine Program office.



Still, the virus remains a concern at the national level after a

presidential panel released a report Monday saying it could infect

half the U.S. population this fall and winter, hospitalizing up to 1.8

million people and causing as many as 90,000 deaths -- more than

double the number that occur in an average flu season.



The virus could cause symptoms in 60 million to 120 million people,

the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

estimated in its report to the White House. Although most of the cases

probably would be mild, up to 300,000 people could require intensive



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