Flu pandemic declaration imminent

June 10, 2009 4:10:11 PM PDT
The World Health Organization is gearing up to declare a swine flu pandemic, a move that could trigger both the large-scale production of vaccines and questions about why the step was delayed for weeks as the virus continued to spread.

As the number of flu-like illnesses mount, people are seeking information about what to expect next.

"I'll be there," said Gretchen Burgos, who has 2 sons at Hunter Elementary.

She is one of dozens of parents attending this school's meeting to voice questions and concerns about the number of kids out sick with flu-like symptoms.

"I'm concerned about the safety of my kids," she told Action News.

Israel Paniagua, another parent, said he wants to know, "What are they planning to do to prevent further spreading?"

There are 2 confirmed cases of the H1N1 at Hunter, and it's presumed kids with similar symptoms also have the virus.

Some parents are upset the school is still open.

Tracey McKnight said, "This is a hazard to their health. You worry about their education, but what about these kids' health?"

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Donald Schwarz say the virus is already out in the community, so closing schools won't help.

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If they've been to a rec center, or taken a bus, they've been exposed," says Dr. Schwarz.

It's a similar situation with other schools in Philadelphia and surrounding counties.

In accordance with school district screening guidelines, 3 students at the Thomas Finletter school with flu-like symptoms were sent home today. The district is doing the screening to minimize the contact any infected child might have with others.

100 kids are absent at Ithan Elementary in Radnor Township, Delaware County. That's actually a drop from the 140 absences yesterday.

And there are 3 confirmed cases in the Lawrence Township, New Jersey schools. One of those with H1N1 was a high schooler, while 2 others were middle school students. All are recovering.

In Bucks County, Pa., 1 student at Warwick Elementary has tested positive for flu, and several other schools have clusters of illnesses.

However, Dr. Schwarz says from what he's seen, most cases are mild.

"I wouldn't say this is a particularly severe stain of influenza, in part, that's because this strain is mostly affecting young people, and they tend to be stronger," says Dr. Schwarz.

Chester County's Health Department says no schools there have reported a burst of flu-like illnesses.

In Montgomery County, at least 4 districts - Lower Merion, North Penn, Pottsgrove, and Cheltenham - have had confirmed cases in school students.

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