Student at Heritage Middle is first confirmed swine flu case in Blount

A student at Heritage Middle School is recovering from H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, but the Blount County school will not close. A team of custodians will spend Saturday wiping down door knobs and surfaces to sanitize the school.

In a press conference Friday afternoon, May 8, Alvin Hord, Blount County director of schools, Blount County Health Director Micky Roberts and incoming schools director Rob Britt the system said the system had its first confirmed case of H1N1 flu virus. “We want to give information on how the school system will handle this,” Hord said. “The confirmed case is a Heritage Middle School student, and we are going to do some proactive things we think will help.”

The Tennessee state Department of Health website confirmed that there are two lab-confirmed cases of the swine flu virus reported in Blount County. Hord said there was only one case in the county school system. Officials with Alcoa and Maryville city schools said there had been no confirmed cases of the flu in their systems.

Hord said three phone lines have been established for anyone wishing to obtain information about the H1N1 virus and the school system. The telephone numbers are 865-984-1313, 865-984-1414 and 865-984-1515.

There are no plans to shut down schools at this point, based on advice from the Centers for Disease Control and the Tennessee Department of Health. “We will deal with it on a day-by-day basis. We’re not going to close school Monday. We’re following the advice of the CDC,” said Hord.

Roberts said the state has a plan in place to deal with situations such as this, and the state works closely with county health departments. “Let me say this should not be a cause for alarm,” he said.

Roberts advised that people who are suffering from flu-like systems should cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, use a tissue and throw the tissue away. They should also wash their hands often and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

“Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth,” he said. “Avoid close contact with sick people, and, if you do get sick, stay home for at least seven days or longer. Individuals should be symptom-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school or work.”

Roberts also advised that anyone suffering from flu-like symptoms contact their primary care physician. If they don’t have one, contact the Blount County Health Department at 865-983-4582.

Roberts said there are adequate amounts of anti-viral medication throughout the state. “Medicine is available for those who need it,” he said.

Roberts said that initially the CDC recommended schools with confirmed H1N1 cases close, but on May 12 the CDC said the severity of this flu is similar to the seasonal flu. “We are now recommending it is not necessary to close schools,” Roberts said.

Because schools are not being closed due to the illness, Roberts said the state is not releasing any further information regarding the student who is now recovering from the flu. For more information, Roberts advised people could contact the State Department of Health at 615-708-9384.

Incoming schools director Rob Britt said Dr. Brian Bell is coordinating a response to the situation at Heritage Middle School. “Dr. Brian Bell has a team of custodians going to Heritage Middle School to spray down all the door knobs and surfaces and disinfect the school and give it a really thorough cleaning,” he said. “We’ll be monitoring the situation day-to-day.”

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