The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) on Tuesday reported 12 new confirmed cases of the novel H1N1 flu, one of which was in Putnam County. However, in their ever-growing understanding of the virus health authorities have also changed their advice on school closures.
No further details were reported on the Putnam County case.
Confirmed cases were also reported in the following counties: Hendricks (1), Lake (3), Marion (5), St. Joseph (1) and Tippecanoe (1). Health officials say because the ISDH Labs were able to start confirming cases this week, the agency was able to start getting caught up on testing. That brings the total number of confirmed cases of the novel H1N1 flu in Indiana to 15.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday a change in its interim guidance on closing schools and childcare facilities. According to the CDC, the disease currently being caused by this novel flu virus is similar to that typically caused by seasonal influenza. Although many people will get sick and a small number, unfortunately, may become quite ill or even die, the available data do not indicate that this virus is causing unusually severe influenza at this time.
"More than 36,000 people die each year in the United States from flu-related illnesses every year," said State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe, M.D. "It is important to note the precautions we have taken and the positive public health messages on good cough and hand hygiene are of significant benefit in protecting those in our state who are at greatest risk for serious complications from the flu."
With the modified policy being issued today, the CDC no longer recommends communities with a laboratory-confirmed case of influenza A H1N1 consider adopting school dismissal or childcare closure measures. The CDC recommends the primary means to reducing the spread of influenza in schools is:
* Early identification of ill students and staff,
* Staying home when ill, and
* Good cough and hand hygiene etiquette.
"I recommend for schools in Indiana to follow the new CDC guidance," said Dr. Monroe. "Schools that were closed based on previous interim CDC guidance related to this outbreak may reopen. However, decisions about school closure are at the discretion of local authorities based on local considerations, including public concern and the impact of school absenteeism and staffing shortages."
Students, faculty, or staff with influenza-like illness (fever with a cough or sore throat) should stay home and not attend school or go into the community except to seek medical care for at least 7 days, even if symptoms resolve sooner. Students, faculty and staff who appear to have an influenza-like illness at arrival or become ill during the school day should be isolated promptly in a room separate from other students and sent home.
The CDC says the 2009 influenza A H1N1 virus is likely to circulate widely in our communities; if not now then almost certainly in the fall.
"The good news is we have more information on the 2009 H1N1 virus today than we did only one week ago. Unfortunately, much uncertainty remains," said Dr. Monroe. "The State Department of Health and the Department of Homeland Security will continue to work closely with our local, state, and federal partners to prevent the further spread of the novel H1N1 flu virus in our state and to be prepared for the possibility of a severe influenza season in the fall."