Swine Flu - How Scared Should Parents Be?

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Stillman College in Alabama is so worried about swine flu, its football team is cancelling its opening home game this Saturday.
    
The decision comes after 37 players became sick, with many showing flu-like symptoms.
    
Schools are especially worried about the swine flu because their crowded conditions are an excellent breeding ground for the H1N1 virus. And that has many parents wondering just how scared they should be as their kids head back to school.

Swine Flu Death
      
The swine flu is a much scarier reality now at Maxwell Elementary School in Cane Ridge, Tenn., after one of their kindergarteners died this week.

"This was a child who became ill last Friday and was sick over the weekend and presented to an E.R. Monday night and died Monday night," Metro Public Health Department's Bill Paul said.  

Some parents, like Dori Edwards, are yanking kids out of class.

"One of the kids in his class just got sent home today with a 102.3 fever and eight kids in his classroom alone that weren't in school today," said Edwards, who decided take her son home.

New Study Sheds Light

But a new study of the first 36 children to die from swine flu brought on by the H1N1 virus sheds some light on exactly which children are most in danger.
    
Two-thirds of those children had underlying conditions, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy or diabetes. A quarter had no underlying conditions, but got a nasty infection such as pneumonia along with the flu.
    
So most children - most people - will go right through the swine flu without any real trouble.

"This flu that is going on right now is no worse than a regular seasonal flu," said Vanderbilt Children's Hospital's Dr. Paul Hain. "And so the odds of any particular child dying from the flu are extremely low."
 
But some need to really watch out.

"The warning signs are difficulty breathing or someone who has an underlying health problem," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

That's why parents like Michele Mundt, whose children have diabetes, are on guard.

"I don't want to be hysterical, but I am definitely paying attention," she said.

Tips for Parents

And what should all parents be doing?

"If the vaccine becomes available in the near future, they need to get the kids vaccinated," said the Children's National Medical Center's Lawrence D'Angelo. "Secondly, they also need to maintain good health and good hygiene during this time. And finally, if the kids get sick, please keep them out of school." 

The bottom line is parents need to be concerned, but not panicked. And all kids and parents have power in their hands to control the spread of this virus. First, sick kids need to stay home. 

And those at school should listen to that absolutely practical advice they're getting: keep washing your hands, cough into your sleeve, avoid bare-handed contact with the handles and spots everyone else touches all the time. Use hand sanitizer afterwards if you do. And avoid close contact with the kids who aren't taking these precautions. 

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.