Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 24
 
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
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Swine Flu Update: More Cases Reported, Though None Severe

Ellen Gilbert

Swine flu is making its presence felt in Princeton. “As the week unfolds, we continue to see confirmed cases of H1N1 flu across the district and throughout the community and Mercer County,” according to Princeton Regional School Superintendent Judith Wilson in a recent letter sent to parents and community members. “Additionally, many students are experiencing flu-like symptoms including fever.” Four confirmed cases of the flu have been reported at Princeton University.

In the wake of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of a swine flu pandemic last week, a number of options are available to Princeton residents seeking more information about the flu.

The Princeton Regional Health Department’s response can be found online at www.princetontwp.org/swineFlu, or by calling (609) 497-7608. The website includes links describing “key facts about swine influenza,” an H1N1 influenza update, and H1N1 provider information, including surveillance and testing for H1N1 in humans, and frequently asked questions for health care providers. A “home care guide” and emergency preparedness shopping list, appropriate for any emergency situation, are also available at the site.

The swine flu pandemic is the first global flu epidemic in 41 years. The last pandemic — the Hong Kong flu of 1968 — reportedly killed about one million people. Ordinary flu kills about 250,000 to 500,000 people each year. According to WHO rules, the organization should declare a pandemic once it finds evidence of widespread “community transmission” — meaning beyond travelers, schools. and immediate contacts — on two continents.

Emphasis, however, has been put on the fact that the WHO announcement reflects the global spread of the flu, not an increase in its severity. Most of those who come down with the disease experience mild cases.

In an earlier letter to parents, Ms. Wilson noted that cases throughout Mercer County have been mild, but reminded them of the precautionary measures that include frequent hand washing with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing; covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; throwing tissues in the trash after using them; using alcohol-based hand cleaners; and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. She encouraged parents whose children show flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, and/or sore throat) to keep them home for seven days from the onset of fever. Her most recent letter added a proviso saying that the district would “require doctor’s clearance for return to school.”

A statement from the University reported that it “has no plans to limit visitors to campus or to disrupt planned activities, but UHS (University Health Services) continues to recommend that individuals planning trips heed information provided by health authorities as they consider traveling, and to consult a physician before traveling if they have flu-like symptoms.”

More information about the University’s response to this public health issue and updates for campus visitors are available at web.princeton.edu/sites/emergency/swineflu/. The Mercer County Swine Flu Hotline is 1-866-321-9571.

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