Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Parents Debating Whether to Send Students to School Because of Swine Flu
Despite the closing of all schools in Mexico and President Obama recommending that schools be closed where a student has been identified as having the swine flu, the Governor of Maryland has said that all schools in Maryland will remain open. This is despite the fact that Maryland's Governor has acknowledged six probable cases of the swine flu in Maryland, including two students in two different schools. School officials have said that they have disinfected the schools, but parents are already protesting that if there is one infected student in a school, then there are likely other students that have been exposed and have yet to come down with the more severe symptoms. Also, the University of Delaware has reported several probable cases of the swine flu. University officials, however, have said that all they are doing is setting up a voluntary screening unit in the gym. The question is whether the current outbreak of the swine flu is more severe than normal strains of the flu? On average, the CDC has stated that there are approximately 35,000 deaths nationwide annually from normal strains of the flu. Most deaths occur among the young, the elderly, and those with impaired immune or respiratory systems. In Mexico, however, the recent swine flu outbreak has followed the pattern of the 1918 flu pandemic in causing more deaths among healthy young adults. Health officials have stated that there is no clear pattern established yet in the U.S., but that the swine flu virus infecting individuals in the U.S. is the same virus that has caused the swine flu deaths in Mexico. All of this has parents concerned about sending students to school. Also, there is the question whether the current approach of not closing schools in the U.S. is fair to students that have respiratory problems such as asthma? While most students infected with swine flu will recover, is it proper public health policy to knowingly expose students with asthma and other respiratory problems to potential swine flu infection - until we know more about how lethal the current outbreak and virus are? What we do know is that the current outbreak has caused over 150 deaths thus far in Mexico and is rapidly spreading throughout the world in just a short period of time.