Day care center decision defended


When officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned that Nevada public health officials weren't going to close a Reno pre-school that a toddler with swine flu had attended, Dr. Mary Guinan, the state health officer, remembers they were surprised.

So surprised, in fact, that Guinan recalls a CDC official remarking: "That's gutsy."

But Guinan, who Friday provided an update on Nevada's experience with the flu virus during a meeting of the state Board of Health, said guts had nothing to do with the how Nevada health officials dealt with the case.

Science did.

"We didn't want to create panic when there was no reason to," she said during an interview after the meeting teleconferenced from North Las Vegas to Carson City. "We didn't want to act like some areas around the country where schools were shut down and they didn't even have a case of the flu. That doesn't make any sense."

By the time health officials dealt with the 2-year-old child who regularly had attended Fundamentals Preschool in Reno, Guinan noted the child was well on her way to recovery and playing at home. No secondary cases of the virus had been found at the school, and the incubation period for the child spreading the virus had passed. The school had been disinfected.

"There was no public health reason to close it," Guinan said. "Some of the child's relatives had it but not other children."

Currently, nine cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Nevada: two in Clark County; four in Washoe County, one of which was confirmed Friday; two in Carson City; and another confirmed Friday in Lyon County.

Two Nellis Air Force Base airmen on assignment in Arkansas have also been diagnosed with the virus.

Charles Ramey, a Nellis spokesman, said Friday that government officials do not believe there is any link between the airmen's cases that of an 11-year-old boy who Nellis officials identified Tuesday as a military dependent. The boy has recovered.

Guinan, the first woman to serve as chief scientific advisor at CDC and among the first scientists to identify the emerging AIDS cases of the 1980s as part of a larger epidemic of a new disease, said the new Nevada Joint Health And Education Authorities Influenza Oversight Committee decides on a case- by-case basis whether any school should be shut down.

The ever changing committee, she said, includes local and state health and education officials.

"We're making decisions based on what we find, not fear," she said.

No schools have been closed so far, though Guinan points out that a number of confirmed cases, including the ones announced Friday in Lyon County and Tuesday in Clark County, involved school-age children. The new Washoe case also involves an elementary school-age student who was not hospitalized

"We study the situation to see if there are any secondary cases, see if the virus is spreading," said Guinan. "That hasn't been the case."

Health officials in Lyon County reported Friday that no unusual illness rates have been identified at the individual's school and absenteeism rates are below what is usual. On Tuesday, health and school officials said that Findlay Middle School, the 11-year-old military dependent's school, did not report any unusual illnesses or absences.

Guinan said she expected public pressure might be brought to bear to close the Reno pre-school.

"But we don't close schools or nurseries for seasonal flu and what was there was certainly nothing worse," Guinan said. "I'm proud of the way that we're dealing with our situation in Nevada in a professional way.

"We're fortunate this has been so mild. We don't know right know, of course, what might happen with it next fall."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

BUG SPURS LACK OF AFFECTION, STUDY SHOWS

ATLANTA -- Swine flu has led to less hugging and kissing.

About one in 10 Americans have stopped hugging and kissing close friends or relatives because of concerns about swine flu, according to a survey released Friday. About the same number have stopped shaking hands.

Health officials have emphasized measures to prevent spread of the virus, such as washing hands and using hand sanitizers. The survey found two-thirds of Americans are taking such steps.

"This outbreak has permeated a lot of American life," said Robert Blendon, the Harvard School of Public Health researcher who led the polling. The telephone survey also found about six in 10 Americans are not worried that they or someone in their immediate family will get sick from the virus in the next year.

The level of concern has been declining, Blendon said. However, parents of school-aged children were more concerned. Many parents say schools have not provided information about what steps are being taken to prevent spread of the virus.

More than 1,000 people participated in the survey. Harvard receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do surveys on public health concerns.

The survey was done Tuesday and Wednesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

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