Though several confirmed cases of the swine flu or H1N1 have hit McDuffie County, health officials along with physicians are urging the public not to panic, but to remain calm.
At least four confirmed cases of the swine flu have been reported in recent days, Dr. Daryl Wiley told officials during a special called meeting of the health board Friday afternoon.
Dr. Wiley, who also is a member of the local health board, said he anticipates more flu cases.
"The four confirmed cases in our office were children," said Dr. Wiley, noting that his office has treated several patients with flu symptoms.
The four patients -- two girls and two boys, ages one month, 6, 7 and 12 -- were treated with medication. "They are doing fine right now," Dr. Wiley said.
He explained that Dr. Susan Land also reported that a patient came into her office with flu-like symptoms last Friday.
"We thought it best to go ahead and inform everyone about this so we could avoid any panic in our community," Dr. Wiley said. "We want everyone to remain calm and to understand what to do if they get these flu-like symptoms."
Because three of the four confirmed patients were school-aged students, health officials also invited McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun to the meeting. Parents whose children are feeling sick and running a fever are advised to keep their children home and to seek medical attention. The same goes for teachers, bus drivers and other personnel with the school system, Mr. LeBrun said.
Local officials said there is no need to close schools, which coincides with the stance of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
"The CDC does not want schools to close," Dr. Wiley said.
Students or employees of the school system who have had the flu are being told not to return to school or work until their fever is gone and they are no longer on any medication for at least 24 hours.
At many of the schools, there are sanitizing stations set up for anyone to better safeguard against getting the flu by washing their hands often.
Robin Dudley, chairwoman of the local health board and a health teacher at Thomson High School, said the school system offers foams and gel stations throughout the school, including in the lunchroom.
"Handwashing is the key to combating any infectious diseases," Dr. Wiley emphasized. "Five to seven days is the normal running course for this flu."
Like any other bacterial flu, there is a chance of death if symptoms are left untreated and the condition of the patient worsens, Dr. Wiley pointed out.
Worldwide, the H1N1 flu is expected to claim between 35,000 and 40,000 lives this year, he said.
"It can be very serious," Dr. Wiley said.
Thus far medical experts say this flu is attacking children as opposed to the elderly, who are affected most by other flu viruses.
"The mortality rate with this particular flu is higher with the age group 29-49," Dr. Wiley said.
A sudden jump in temperature with the patient becoming more lethargic and experiencing problems urinating could spell very serious problems.
"Those are the ones getting in big, big time trouble," Dr. Wiley said, noting that children seem to get sick much quicker than adults.
WHAT IS IT? Also called H1N1, the flu is a virus easily spread among humans with cases appearing in April in the United States and Mexico. Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. People do not normally get it, but human infections can and do happen.
HOW IS IT CONTRACTED? You cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products. It is spread the same way that seasonal flu spreads -- mainly from person to person through coughing, sneezing or touching something infected with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
SYMPTOMS: Fever higher than 100 degrees, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, chills, body aches, headache, fatigue. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
WARNING SIGNS IN CHILDREN: Fast or trouble breathing, bluish-gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, vomiting, listlessness, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held. Flu-like symptoms improve, but return with fever or worse cough.
WARNING SIGNS IN ADULTS: Difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in chest, dizziness, confusion, vomiting. Flu-like symptoms improve, but return with fever or worse cough.
WHAT TO DO: Sick individuals should stay at home except to seek medical care. Avoid contact with others for at least five days and remain fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours before contact with others.
IMPACT: The Center for Disease Controls confirms that the swine flu has the same death rate as the typical flu strains experienced in North America on an annual basis.
Information provided by McDuffie County Health Department and the Georgia Department of Community Health.