Swine Flu Hits Ohio County Schools

WHEELING – Doctors diagnosed an Ohio County Schools student Wednesday with what is believed to be the district’s first case of swine flu.

That’s not to say, however, that flu-like symptoms haven’t already been present in the schools, both school and health department officials noted.

The youth diagnosed with swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, is a student at Wheeling Park High School.

Howard Gamble, administrator for the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, was quick to note that the student’s illness was not confirmed by a lab; instead it was diagnosed as flu by the student’s physician. Any flu-like symptoms currently present in the community can be attributed to swine flu, Gamble added.

“We currently do not have any lab-confirmed cases in Ohio County schools, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there,” he said. “Local physicians are treating flu on a regular basis.”

Gamble said health department officials have told Ohio County Schools employees not to “do anything special” to deal with the swine flu epidemic – other than to conduct routine cleaning within school buildings.

Educating students about proper handwashing methods and hygiene practices also is advised, he said.

“They should also talk to students about staying away from school if they are sick,” Gamble said.

Flu vaccination clinics are expected to be scheduled in local schools.

“If someone is diagnosed with the flu, it’s most likely the H1N1 virus,” Gamble said. “It won’t be long before we’re mingling it and the seasonal flu.”

Ohio County Schools Superintendent George Krelis said his office was notified of the swine flu case Wednesday by the school nurse at Wheeling Park. He said the absentee rate at the school was at about 8 percent – just about normal for this time of year.

Krelis added that the school district would continue to work with the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department regarding the best defense against swine flu.

“We’ll be working through this,” he said. “It’s a difficult time for everybody.”