Letter to the Editor

School official clarifies points

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To the Editor:

Last Wednesday, Jamie Barrand of the Banner Graphic and I spoke by telephone about various issues related to H1N1 influenza. Last Thursday, an article ("Schools Preparing for H1N1 Cases") appeared in the Banner Graphic.

As opposed to an interview, our discussion was more of an open dialogue. Based on the article, it seems that I either misspoke on some topics or Jamie misunderstood some points I was trying to make. Since the health and well-being of our students is of the utmost importance, I would like to offer the following points of clarification.

With regard to my comment about "no confirmed cases" of H1N1: Some parents are telling us doctor's offices have told them their children most likely have H1N1, but they do not officially confirm it with the test. We may very well have some "confirmed" cases. I am not aware of any such confirmation from medical professionals or health officials. That is not something about which we would typically be "officially" notified.

With regard to my comment that "Local doctor's offices don't test specifically for H1N1": I stated we were told by the health department at a meeting early in the school year that our local doctor's offices would not be testing for H1N1. I did not intend to claim to know what the doctor's offices are -- or are not -- testing for at this time. I am confident that the local health department would be a better source for that information than I am.

The quote attributed to me that I feel needs particular clarification is this one: "There's nothing more parents or the schools can do. H1N1 is not really any different than seasonal flu."

I am fully aware of the fact that H1N1 is different than seasonal flu. If there was no difference -- particularly about our lack of natural immunity to it -- we would not be having all of the media coverage and concerns around the globe. What I said was that the precautions that people are encouraged to take to avoid getting sick are the same as those they are to take to avoid the seasonal flu or any other virus. The point being that there does not seem to be any specific need to notify parents of a confirmed case of H1N1 any more so than we would notify them that we had a confirmed case of seasonal influenza. Parents and students need to take the same precautions either way.

I appreciate Jamie's efforts to raise awareness and encourage communication about this important health matter. I encourage you to refer to the CDC website or contact our local health department if you have questions about H1N1. If you have a child in the GCSC and have questions about the school's handling of anything regarding this topic, please feel free to contact me directly at Greencastle Middle School.

I hope the impact of this illness is minimal throughout our county. Here's to washing our hands and covering our coughs and sneezes!

Shawn Gobert

GCSC School Safety Specialist