Online visitors to the Northeast USD 246 Web site on Tuesday noticed this headline: "One Confirmed Case of H1N1 in the Elementary."

Online visitors to the Northeast USD 246 Web site on Tuesday noticed this headline: "One Confirmed Case of H1N1 in the Elementary."
The announcement went onto say that the child is "under the supervision of a physician and the family is taking precautionary measures to contain the illness.."
However, while there is a Northeast Elementary student with flu-like symptoms, Superintendent Mike Philpot said Tuesday afternoon that the child's illness was never confirmed by the state as H1N1, commonly referred to as swine flu. Rather, the student's mother told the district that the family doctor said the child "may have" H1N1 and the district posted the announcement on its Web site for precautionary reasons.
"But we may have jumped the gun a bit," Philpot said, referring to the statement of a confirmed case.
The Northeast case highlights some of the confusion and miscommunication surrounding the H1N1 virus, particularly when it comes to probable or "suspect" cases versus confirmed cases.
Janis Goedeke, Crawford County health officer, said Tuesday that only the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment can confirm cases of H1N1 in this state. Family doctors, while they can tell a patient he or she may have swine flu, can only diagnose the more common Type A Influenza.
"You can't confirm H1N1 without a nasopharyngeal swab," Goedeke said. "You can go to the doctor and they can do a rapid influenza test. It could come up positive for influenza A, and it could be H1N1. But you don't know if it's H1N1 unless you actually do testing."
Since late April, there have been eight confirmed cases of H1N1 in Crawford County, including confirmed cases at both St. Mary's-Colgan and Pittsburg USD 250 schools. The St. Mary's case was reported last week, while the USD 250 student was diagnosed with H1N1 before classes began this fall.
Destry Brown, USD 250 superintendent, and John Kraus, St. Mary's president of schools, attended Monday's H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Summit hosted by Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson. The meeting was aimed at providing emergency management, health officials and other leaders from across the state with the resources and knowledge to help prevent and prepare for a possible flu outbreak.
Along with Goedeke, Brown and Kraus developed a letter addressed to the Pittsburg community that discusses what schools are doing to prepare for an H1N1 pandemic.
"As precautions," the letter states, "our schools are implementing proactive measures to help control the spread of the flu."
Those measures include teaching students about proper hygiene and handwashing procedures and sending home those students who experience flu-like symptoms. In a change from recent reported policies, students can return to school after they've been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Schools initially planned to keep ill students out of school at least a week.
Schools have also been advised not to keep from school the siblings of ill students, another change from previous policy procedures.
"Kids who are not experiencing flu-like symptoms should be in school," according to the joint letter, which has been posted on the Web site of both school districts.

'Doing a lot of assumption right now'
While there have been just eight confirmed cases in Crawford County, Goedeke said there are likely many more cases that have not been officially diagnosed.
One reason for this is that many people who feel sick or have flu-like symptoms choose not to see a doctor, therefore whatever illness they may have is never diagnosed.
Another reason, however, is that not all cases of the flu are being tested for the H1N1 virus. Goedeke said Tuesday that because "we know H1N1 is in the community," it's not necessary to send every flu case to the state lab for H1N1 confirmation.
"We're doing a lot of assumption right now," she said. "It's far enough into the community and if you have symptoms of flu, then we're just going to assume and treat it as H1N1."
The only flu cases that are being tested for H1N1 are those that cause the patient to be hospitalized. Otherwise, just two swabs per week are being sent to the state for further tests. The reason tests are done at all, Goedeke said, is to gather aggregate data regarding where H1N1 is present and where it is most prevalent.
But because the symptoms and treatment for the regular flu and H1N1 are so similar, Goedeke said it's not vital that the distinction between the two is made.
"It's not really that important now to make the difference between influenza A and the swine flu," she said. "It's treated as if it's the flu. It could be H1N1, it could not be H1N1. It doesn't matter. The treatment is the same and the guidelines are the same."
Whether it's the seasonal flu or H1N1, Goedeke said that the most important factor in limiting the spread of the disease is for people to stay home when sick.
"One of my biggest struggles is getting people to stay home," she said. "Staying home doesn't mean running to Wal-Mart or running out for errands. It means stay home."

A CLOSER LOOK
Ways to protect your health
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
• Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners* are also effective.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
•  Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
Source:  www.cdc.gov.